Fallen veteran's family wins years-long battle for gravestone

CHEHALIS, Wash. - It's hard enough losing a family member to cancer - but it can be agonizing when your loved one isn't given the honors he deserves.

The family of a local military veteran struggled for years without success to get the official government gravestone he was entitled to.

So the grieving family turned to the KOMO News Problem Solvers for help in marking their loved one's final resting place.

"It was just - I knew it should be there but it wasn't," says Jamie Brown, the daughter of former Air Force Sgt. Gregory Vandal.

All the other gravestones made the grassy empty space where Vandal was buried feel even bigger.

"Looking down the aisles and walking down the aisles, you couldn't see that dad was here," says Jamie.

Cancer took Vandal's life three years ago. A paperwork mistake, confusion - along with overwhelming grief - delayed the bronze marker the Pentagon provides for all those who served.

But now that forged piece of bronze has finally arrived.

"Now you can actually see that dad's here," says his daughter.

Relatives held a long-awaited memorial service in the rain for Gregory Vandal. Gregory, they say, never minded the rain.

The Problem Solvers became part of this journey when, two months ago, the family contacted KOMO News out of desperation.

The Problem Solvers contacted a senator's office, along with state and federal veterans affairs officials. The manager of Claquato Cemetery pushed through the final paperwork.

"I'm so grateful and so, just happy, it's finally there," says Jamie.

Even though family members knew he was there - even though cherished memories are not dictated by a piece of metal - this was something they needed.

"Long after we're gone that marker'll be here, saying that my dad was here," says his daughter. "He did what he did out of love for his country."