Arlington may be the most famous final resting place of our nation’s veterans, but it is no more worthy of silence and respect than any other national cemetery. Service members are promised, and earn, the right to be buried in the “quiet serenity and pristine nature” of a “shrine” setting. Every veteran interred at a national cemetery risked the last full measure of devotion; many paid for that honor with their lives, limbs and/or lucidity. Yet, their government erected a wind turbine inside the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne (Bourne). The 151-foot industrial infrastructure looms over veterans’ graves and the Commonwealth’s official POW-MIA memorial, calling to mind a haunting line from the war poem “In Flanders Field”: If ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep.
Like most national cemeteries, Bourne is operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Pursuant to its motto, in addition caring for those who have “borne the battle,” VA promises to care for those whom the fallen leave behind. In defiance of that commitment, VA erected the turbine in close proximity to highly-trafficked, sensitive public areas, including the graves of young post-9/11 veterans killed in action, offending and endangering their visiting survivors and battle buddies.
Gloucester residents recently learned that turbine blades fall. Similarly, California freeway commuters, Iowa farmers, and Maine snowmobile enthusiasts have learned, firsthand, of the need for wind turbines to be adequately set back from public areas. The local NBC affiliate reported that the Gloucester turbine blade fell, without warning, leaving debris “all over the place.” Unlike other blade failures I’ve discovered, the Bourne turbine has a troubled history; its foreign manufacturer shuttered, and the turbine, itself, failed less than half-way through its 20-year life expectancy. Instead of removing the inoperable turbine, VA invested in its costly repair, placing it back online jn time for Memorial Day 2022. Should a blade be thrust from the Bourne turbine, visitors inside the setback zone, knelt at graves and seated in funeral cortege waiting lanes, could be killed.
Two visitors were killed at a national cemetery in New York, due to VA’s refusal to eliminate another public safety threat. A February 2022 newspaper exposé titled “‘It could have been avoided’: VA Cemetery planners’ warnings went unheeded before crash killed two vets,” revealed that career bureaucrats reprimanded staff who contacted local and state officials when VA refused to act. Unheeded warnings have preceded many mass tragedies, including the Uvalde school shooting (exterior door couldn’t be locked from inside), Florida condo collapse (code violations), and 9/11 (flight students not interested in learning to land planes).
When a Gold Star mother inquired about ongoing construction near her son’s grave at Bourne, she was told that a monument was being erected. Instead, a wind turbine soon stood there. Perhaps the cemetery worker she inquired of (most are veterans) viewed the turbine as a “monument” to the many broken promises suffered by those who serve, and die, in uniform (e.g., Agent Orange and burn pit exposure; waitlist and Walter Reed scandals; withdrawal from Afghanistan, where scores of young troops were seriously injured and killed at Kabul).
Bourne is among the largest national cemeteries, and one of only two “active” sites in New England. The veterans interred there include those who died in battle from combat wounds (as young as 17), and those who died at home from invisible wounds of war. The remains of a veteran MIA for decades is interred at Bourne, where a World War II POW camp survivor is also buried. They also include Union soldiers, a World War I Hello Girl, Medal of Honor recipients, and veterans who continued to serve the nation following their honorable discharge from the military, as first responders, healthcare workers and public school teachers. Every one of them answered their nation’s call, yet no one is answering their call: Let us rest in the silent, respectful “shrine” setting that we were promised and earned.
If you support the wind turbine’s removal, please mail a postcard (may be anonymous) reading:
“Mr. President, tear down that turbine!” to Grave Injustice, P.O. Box 3159, Bourne MA, 02532.