GAINESVILLE, Mo. — The federal Department of Veterans Affairs' inspector general is investigating reports that a southern Missouri patio and staircase is made out of military gravestones.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Navy veteran Ed Harkreader of Mountain Home, Arkansas, posted on social media last week photographs of the arrangement he found on property in Ozark County, near the Arkansas line.
"This isn't the way you should use military headstones," 55-year-old Harkreader, who served in the Navy for 22 years, told the newspaper. "This is disrespectful of military veterans."
Chris Erbe, a spokesman for the National Cemetery Administration in Washington, said the VA's Office of Inspector General is investigating. Erbe added that military headstones periodically are replaced, but old stones are supposed to be destroyed.
It's unclear where the stones in Ozark County came from. Markers sometimes are inscribed with errors or typos and are supposed to be destroyed, and stones often are replaced rather than reinscribed when spouses die and are buried at the same site.
"They are not to be used for any kind of home improvement project," Erbe said.
The Post-Dispatch said a check of online grave services indicates some of the stones were for gravesites in California, Alabama and Texas. The markers in Harkreader's photographs appear to be relatively new, with several showing death dates in the 2000s.
Fifty-five-year-old Harkreader served in the Navy for 22 years.