02/20/14 Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.) issued the following statement regarding the disinterment of Michael L. Anderson today from Fort Custer National Cemetery in Michigan. Anderson shot and killed Indianapolis resident Alicia Dawn Koehl on May 30, 2012 and was later buried – against current law – with full military honors.
“On this day of closure, my thoughts are with the Koehl family and the lasting legacy Alicia leaves behind,” Coats. “While I am pleased this unacceptable mistake has been corrected, today’s events cannot bring back a wonderful wife and mother. With their hard work and determination, the Koehl family has honored Alicia through the passage of a law that bears her name and protects the integrity of our national cemeteries.”
After learning that Anderson was buried in a national cemetery, the Koehl family contacted the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to request that it disinter his remains. The VA rejected the request and claimed it did not have the authority to exhume the remains of an ineligible veteran mistakenly buried in one of its cemeteries.
On August 1, 2013, Coats introduced the Alicia Dawn Koehl Respect for National Cemeteries Act, which passed the Senate in November. Congresswoman Susan W. Brooks (R-Ind.) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives. The Coats bill was signed into law by President Obama in December.
The Coats law gave the VA and U.S. Department of the Army authority to disinter an ineligible veteran mistakenly buried in a national cemetery. Federal law prohibits individuals who “have committed a Federal or State capital crime but were unavailable for trial due to death” from being buried in national cemeteries. Specifically, the law ensured that the VA could disinter Anderson’s remains.
Alicia Koehl was a mother of two and very active in several community causes. She was a Girl Scout Leader and “Volunteer of the Year” at her children’s school. Her passing was mourned with candlelight vigils and an official tribute from the Indianapolis City County Council.