Cheltenham Veteran's Cemetery damaged, families outraged

CHELTENHAM, Md. (WJLA) - Members of the military community are furious after a veteran's cemetery in Prince George's County was damaged.

Construction equipment moved headstones and drove over plots at the Cheltenham Veteran's Cemetery along Route 301, and while families are outraged, officials say there was nothing malicious over what happened.

Family members posted pictures of damaged grave sites to Facebook after rushing to the cemetery Tuesday morning. One after another, families discovered the grass on graves dug up.

"Not only are all these people here veterans, they are our loved ones and they should be respected," family member Colleen Spellacy said.

Officials who oversee the cemetary say it was nothing malicious and nothing criminal. They say a longtime worker driving a backhoe simply made a mistake.

However, Edward Chow, Maryland's Secretary of Veterans Affairs, says that the mistake was unacceptable.

"We will continually train our staff," Chow said. "Even a 20-year person who has been employed with us made a mistake."

That's no comfort to family members whose loved ones are buried at Cheltenham, though, who say that the damage looks like no accident.

Workers came back with backhoes filled with dirt that started making things right again, but for people like Carl Brown and Carol Milikan - who buried her husband here last year - it's little consolation.

"This is a resting place for our nation's heroes - the people who served our country with honor," Brown said. "They deserve to be in a place of honor."

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