Roger Hedgbeth – Sergeant, United States Army

From a contemporary press report: 30 June 1999

Roger Hedgbeth was a World War II hero and veteran's advocate with two final wishes: to have his body donated to medical research and his ashes interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

His wife Linnae honored the first wish, but could not honor the second because his remains were not returned and Arlington refused to memorialize him without them.

But because of the tenacity of his widow, Hedgbeth will get the memorial he hoped for.

“It's unfair to penalize someone who did two selfless things, serve his country and donate his body to science,” U.S. Representative Bob Goodlatte said Wednesday in announcing the exception.

Hedgbeth died in 1997 the day after his 77th birthday, and had wanted his ashes placed behind an engraved stone in the Arlington columbarium, a vault with niches for urns.

Any honorably discharged veteran who is not a convicted felon can get a niche. Decorated veterans and soldiers whose remains could not be recovered, including those missing in action, are eligible for freestanding memorials, McLendon said.

Hedgbeth more than met the requirements for the columbarium.

He was an Army sniper who won the Bronze Star for bravery during the Battle of the Bulge, was given five ribbons of commendation and got to meet Sir Winston Churchill and General George Patton.

His proudest moment, however, was when the German city that he helped the Allies capture made him mayor for a day.

But Hedgbeth did not know that in donating his body to science, the remains are never returned. And Arlington had a policy of not providing niches in the vault without having the cremated bodies.

Goodlatte, a Republican, said Wednesday that Arlington agreed to make an exception in Hedgbeth's case. His name will be etched in stone in front of an empty niche in the columbarium.

And Goodlatte said he will work to pass legislation pending in a committee that would make Hedgbeth's exception the rule.

“He did everything he could for veterans, even in his spare time,” said Corky Caughlin, a friend and former vice president of the veterans council. “You couldn't meet a nicer guy.”

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