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Antietam makes rare exception for Roy burial

October 27, 2000

Antietam makes rare exception for Roy burial



By ANDREW SCHOTZ / Staff Writer


U.S. Navy Fireman Patrick Howard Roy's burial at Antietam National Cemetery in Sharpsburg today will mark only the second time an exception has been made since the cemetery was closed to burials in 1953.

The National Park Service closed the cemetery, where almost 5,100 veterans and their spouses are buried, with the understanding that all existing reservations for burial would be honored.

John Howard, the superintendent of the Antietam cemetery and battlefield, said the last burial there was in the late 1980s, when the remains of four Irish brigade soldiers were found on the Roulette Farm. That was not considered an exception, he said, because the remains were of Civil War veterans.

Before that, the last burial was of a veteran's spouse in the early 1980s, he said.

The previous exception was in 1978. When U.S. Rep. Goodloe E. Byron, who represented the 6th District, died of a heart attack while jogging along the C&O Canal, an exception was made for him to be buried at Antietam.

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"It was opened especially for Goodloe Byron," then-Park Superintendent Virgil Leimer said in a news account published at the time. "He was our Congressman. He was a champion of the public for parks and recreation."

The Park Service made an exception this week for Roy, of Keedysville, who died in the Oct. 12 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen. His funeral will be held at 2 p.m. today.

Howard said Roy will be buried along a southern wall near an outer ring of graves. Roy's grave will be next to that of a World War II Navy veteran.

"It was really the last obvious site," Howard said.

While reviewing burial records recently, the Park Service found that there are probably two remaining burial reservations for the 135-year-old cemetery, he said. One is for the spouse of a World War I veteran who died in the early 1960s. The second is for a World War II veteran.

The Park Service hasn't heard from either family in a while and isn't sure if the reservations will be used, Howard said.

About three years ago, the wife of another deceased veteran canceled her reservation when she decided to move to Florida.

Howard said that such new burials do not necessarily mean new burial sites because the spouses of veterans are buried in the same graves as the veterans.

When the veterans were buried, the graves were dug deeper if the spouse was expected to be buried there, too, he said.

Most of the veterans buried at Antietam fought in the Civil War. Others were veterans of World War I, World War II, the Spanish-American War and the Korean War, Howard said.

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