UNION GROVE, Wis. -- Veterans and their loved ones are waiting for weeks to be buried at the veterans cemetery in Union Grove. The delay is in part because of the pandemic. But it is not the only reason.
The Southern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Union Grove has a delay of six weeks for burials and services. They are already booking into the second week in November, according to Gary Dierks from the bureau director of veterans cemeteries and memorial services at the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.
“We are seeing a perfect storm of a number of different variables,” said Dierks.
“We are in unprecedented times with the pandemic, and it does call on all of us to make sacrifices in our lives, and we are asking our veterans to make another sacrifice and their families have to make that sacrifice and wait,” said Jeff Kleczka, the owner of Prasser-Kleczka Funeral Home.
Kleczka is currently working with two Milwaukee-area families trying to bury their loved one at the veterans cemetery. He says it’s heartbreaking to tell them how long they will be waiting when it usually takes less than a week to bury someone at a private cemetery.
“We are not experiencing any other delays at any other cemeteries in the metro area,” said Kleczka.
The Department of Veterans Affairs says Union Grove is the fifth busiest state-run veterans cemetery in the country. During the first few months of the pandemic, many families choose to delay their services and now they holding them. On top of that, 50 percent of their staff left this summer.
State Senate Wanggaard, who represents the area, says they are requesting help from the federal government to try to refill lost positions. Veterans Affairs says they have upped the number of services each day, but they are still are trying to catch up.
“The number one goal for us is high standard of service for the families,” said Dierks.