Headstones of War Veterans Discovered at Long-Closed Chicago Rail Yard

NBC Universal, Inc.

Headstones containing the names of American veterans who served during World War 2, Korea and Vietnam were found scattered in a pile at a long-closed rail yard on Chicago's South Side.

A CSX worker told NBC 5 he found at least 29 headstones at the rail yard on Monday.

According to the railroad, the headstones were illegally dumped on CSX Property.  CSX also said it is working with local authorities to investigate the matter further.

“CSX is a company invested in honoring and supporting our veteran community so we were naturally concerned when this was discovered,” said a company spokesperson.

The Department of Veterans Affairs also said it is aware of the situation.

A spokesperson for the National Cemetery Administration said the headstones will be recovered and that it will check to ensure that the veterans named on them have properly marked graves.

A headstone with James A. Palenik’s name was among those found at the rail yard.  Online records show Palenik was 19-years-old when he was killed in action in Vietnam in 1968.

Records also show that Palenik is buried at Resurrection Catholic Cemetery in Justice.

The cemetery has not responded to NBC 5’s request for comment.

Paul Grasmehr, reference coordinator at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, said veteran headstones can get replaced for any number of reasons, including misspellings or discovered acts of valor awards.

But he said he hopes the headstones at the rail yard were not part of an act of vandalism.

“For veterans who honorably served our country, they need to be commemorated properly and part of that proper commemoration is proper treatment of their burial plot and their headstone,” Grasmehr said.

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