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More Waiting at Arlington

Many readers were distressed to learn about the 19 days that the family of a World War II veteran had to wait before they could bury him last month with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Colonel Earle A. Johnson, of Alexandria, who won the Silver Star for combat in World War II, was not buried until August 19, 1998, almost three weeks after his death. At the time, officials with the Military District Washington said it was the longest wait they had heard of.

Now comes word that another family had to wait 25 days.

Retired Air Force Major Joseph C. Vallimont, of Alexandria, died July 10, 1998 of a heart attack. He was not buried until August 4, 1998.

"It is too long a wait for that phase of closure," said his widow, Sandra Vallimont.

The long waits for burial at Arlington stem from the aging of the World War II population and defense cuts that have reduced funding for honor guards and other resources for military funerals.

Arlington is averaging 22 funerals a day. When families want funerals with full military honors, including the use of the Fort Myer chapel, the waits are long because of previous bookings.

"It all boils down to scheduling, the availability of the chapel, the availability of the honor guard," said Colonel Dave Childers, spokesman for the Military District Washington. "There wasn't any one thing." Added Childers, "It's probably safe to say there are similar cases out there."