WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Granite Stater Pam Rogers watched today as Congressman Frank Guinta introduced theHonor Our Fallen Heroes Act of 2015, a bill that would finally lay to rest her ancestor, a Union soldier who perished in a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp, with full recognition in a U.S. military cemetery.
Ms. Rogers contacted her First Congressional District representative through his text and email platform – Rep. Guinta’s "We the People" Initiative – available to constituents to offer their legislative ideas. "Congressman Guinta seized an opportunity to help my family and probably more to bury long-lost relatives with the honor they deserve," she said.
"Pam has done a lot of hard work to tell Private Zortman’s story. Now it's time for the VA to do its part,”said Rep. Guinta (NH01).
Rep Guinta and Pam Rogers at bill signing
Records show that Private Samuel Zortman of Harrisburg, Pa., died at Georgia's Camp Lawton military prison in 1864, after his capture in Virginia earlier that year and a period at the infamous Andersonville prison, also in Georgia. A journal of his volunteer regiment, explains Rogers, details that his captors buried his remains in a mass grave, excavated and interred later at South Carolina's Beaufort National Cemetery.
An empty tomb near his hometown lists Pvt. Zortman’s cause of death as starvation."Even with all this evidence,” says Rogers, “the VA will not award a headstone to this young soldier, who died at age 21 in the worst conditions imaginable.”
Due to a technicality, the VA will not award an individual marker to a soldier whose remains have been identified but who may have a gravesite, its exact location unknown."My bill clears up the language, so POW'S like Private Zortman receive proper burial," said Rep. Guinta.“Our commitment to those who have bravely served should never end.”
The Congressman voted for theVeterans Access to Care Act, providing military veterans with alternatives to struggling VA facilities, and has introduced a bill to prevent the Obama Administration from defunding the program.