OVA chief disappointed by ‘lack of support’ for veterans

Posted on Jul 29 2020

Of the seven lawmakers that make up the House Committee on Federal and Foreign Affairs, only a few showed up for a meeting last week with the Office of Veterans Affairs and OVA executive officer Stanley T. Iakopo sees this as the committee’s disappointing lack of support for veterans and their families.

According to Iakopo, he asked to meet with committee members top talk about how to protect the CNMI Veterans Cemetery from being desecrated by stray cows that defecate on the resting place of veterans and their families.

“I need their support. I need the committee, not just one person or two,” said Iakopo.

Although a temporary fence already surrounds the Veterans Cemetery in Marpi, Iakopo said the problem has not been resolved as the cows are still there and are still straying into the cemetery, this time going through the front gate.
“So I expressed my disappointment with the committee, because I need them to help the veterans and help the families, help our office, in general to assist us in talking to the [cattle] grazers,” he said in an interview.

The bottom line, Iakopo said, is that this is about the cemetery, about a place where loved one were laid to rest, a respected and protected area.

Committee chair Rep. Luis John Castro (R-Saipan) agrees with Iakopo for the need to have the Veterans Cemetery respected as hallowed ground. “I want to make sure that our veterans’ final resting place is honored appropriately. The grazers can assist by being more responsible in raising their livestock,” said Castro.

He commended Iakopo for taking the initial steps in securing the cemetery by installing the temporary fence that’s meant to prevent cows from entering the cemetery.

He pointed out that Iakopo is merely doing his job but “is getting into issues with some ranchers, so he asked us to assist in regards to that.

“Right now, it is still an ongoing discussion and the committee plans to reach out to the Department of Public Lands as well as the ranchers who have grazing property in Marpi,” Castro said, adding that enforcement of DPL rules is the issue.

Castro added that it’s a “touchy issue” because it’s not “just any cemetery” but a veterans cemetery and many go there to pay respects to their loved ones who have served. He said the FFA will invite DPL to its next meeting.

Justine Nauta | Correspondent
Justine Nauta is Saipan Tribune's community and health reporter and has covered a wide range of news beats, including the Northern Marianas College and Commonwealth Health Care Corp. She's currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation and Human Services at NMC.
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