Arlington headstone heartache: 7 On Your Side gets answers for families of fallen heroes
ARLINGTON, Va. (ABC7) —
Arlington National Cemetery is a sacred place. But now, 7 ON YOUR SIDE has discovered that adding a personal engraving on a headstone for several families has become a nightmare.
Clay Sanders told 7 On Your Side he isn’t happy that his mother’s headstone still isn’t completed.
“My father was a veteran and his wife was supposed to be laid to rest on top of him. Don’t cheat the American veteran," said Sanders.
Sanders who lives in Boise, Idaho, says he is heartbroken after hiring T.A. Sullivan & Son Memorials of Leesburg, Virginia, and its owner Lea Anne Kennedy. He says he paid Kennedy more than $1,400 in January to engrave his mother's name on his father's private headstone.
Arlington National Cemetery allows the purchase and engraving of private headstones or it supplies a government-issued engraved headstone.
This month, the I-Team found Annie Sanders name on a plastic marker stuck in the ground at her grave.
In January, Kennedy told Sanders she would try and have the engraving completed by April 1. It never happened.
Then in June, the cemetery said T.A. Sullivan had five outstanding requests from families, some of which had been waiting for between two and three years.
We found one family that's been waiting since last November.
Tom Montgomery who lives in Phoenix, Arizona, told ABC7 News, "Every time it's been brought up it kinda throws that sword back into your heart and twists it a bit more so it is a very emotional roller coaster."
Montgomery says he paid T.A. Sullivan a year ago to add the final date of his mom's passing. So far, another plastic print out sticks out the ground.
"It's been one excuse after another," said Montgomery.
T.A. Sullivan & Son Memorials has an F-rating with the Better Business Bureau and multiple complaints dating back to 2015.
The I-Team tracked down T.A. Sullivan to a location in Leesburg. The sign out front says Leesburg Monument but Kennedy confirms it’s now T.A. Sullivan. Headstones fill the front yard and it looks like a tiny cemetery. ABC7 News knocked on the front door, but nobody was home.
We did track down Lea Anne Kennedy who refused to talk to us on camera but did agree to finish each headstone within days. We double checked and both are now completed.
We received the following email from Kennedy:
"Thank you for working closely with T. A. Sullivan & Son Memorials and the two families to complete the two overdue inscriptions in Arlington National Cemetery. I’m pleased that we were able to get them approved and engraved before Veterans Day.
In addition, T.A. Sullivan & Son Memorials has sponsored a grave specific wreath for each of these families in Arlington National Cemetery. Ensuring that on Dec. 16th both families will receive a wreath at the gravesite of their loved ones.
Lea Anne Kennedy"
We reached out to Arlington National Cemetery which says it does oversee the work on private markers but it's up to families to manage agreements with private contractors.
For these two families, contacting 7 On Your Side paid off.
"I use to live in Washington for about 30 years. Always watch 7 and you guys work wonders. I feel extremely happy," said Montgomery.
Tips to protect yourself:
- Make sure you have a completion date written into your contract tied in with a full refund if the job isn't completed on time.
- Check out a Company’s Better Business Bureau rating here: https://www.bbb.org/