Family of fallen veteran frustrated with funeral guidelines amid pandemic

New Mexico

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Among the New Mexico businesses having to operate at limited capacity, one family is upset that even includes funeral homes and cemeteries. They said it’s delaying a proper burial for their loved one who was a veteran who passed away earlier this year.

Phillip Velasquez Jr. is heartbroken as he and his family try to make funeral arrangements at the Santa Fe National Cemetery. His brother, Joseph Velasquez served in the military for more than two decades and passed away last month.

“He was a people person, he was a man of leadership, he was a man that knew how to take care of people,” said Velasquez. Velasquez said staff with the Santa Fe National Cemetery told him they’re following the governor’s public health order, limiting funerals to 25% occupancy at the venue.

That means they can have only five family members for the chamber burial ceremony while 25 others can pay their respects from the cemetery’s parking lot. It’s difficult for Velasquez to accept since his brother left behind a wife and six children. 

“My sister-in-law and my nieces and nephews can’t hold each other and cry into each other’s arms and they’re going to be sitting six feet apart,” Velasquez said. “And I was like that’s unacceptable.”

The family is holding out a little longer for the state to loosen the restrictions before finalizing funeral plans. The governor’s office told KRQE News 13 on Sunday there is no timeline for when the rules about limited funeral capacity could change.

KRQE did reach out to the Santa Fe National Cemetery for comment, but did not hear back.

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