Monday, June 11, 2018

Why is US Navy Keeping "Deplorables" Out of Barrancas National Cemetery?

UPDATE 6/13/2018: Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) today introduced National Defense Authorization Act amendment #2489 (To require a plan from the Navy to allow increased public access to the National Naval Aviation Museum and Barrancas National Cemetery at Naval Air Station Pensacola). Thank you Sen. Nelson!
Read more about this in the Pensacola News Journal...

UPDATE: 6/16/2018: Sen Marco Rubio (D-FL) has joined Sen. Nelson in support of amendment #2489, read more about this in the Pensacola News Journal...

On June 12, 2018, I filed the following complaint in the online "Suggestion Box" for the Commanding officer of Pensacola Naval Air Station, as of this date of publication, I am still awaiting a response:


To Whom it May Concern:

We have visited this grave every couple of years without a problem, when visiting Pensacola, until now. However, our recent visit very much upset my wife, daughter of the deceased and also granddaughter of CDR John Ogle Strickland, Naval Aviator, graduate of Pensacola NAS flight school, and Flight Commander of the USS Saratoga during World War II (buried in Arlington). 

Here's what she wrote me, FYI:

"Something terribly wrong here.  We were sent to fill out 2 page long "security" forms (which gave no information that running a driver's license wouldn't) in an office -- race, height, weight, employment, etc.  Yet no description of make or license of car.  Clerk in office didn't bother to get off her phone to assist us.  We were given dashboard passes marked "Cemetery" and went through line at gate again.  Told guard were were visiting cemetery.  He told us we have to drive to the other gate to get through.  We expressed surprise, and he reiterated that this rule had been in effect for more than a year.  Drove 6 miles there, waited through another security line at gate, to be told that that information was wrong, we were at wrong gate.  The guard said he "knew the guy" who had steered us wrong, and would call to be sure we could get through -- which seemed odd -- why would someone be allowed to continue misdirecting people? Another 6 mile drive.  Another wait at gate.  Despite our passes marked "Cemetery" we were told we needed to go to office and fill out forms, until we pointed out that we already had passes -- so situational awareness zero there.  All told at least an hour and a half of wasted time.

"And funnily, both Google Maps and Trip Advisor had said that the cemetery was "Closed Today" although it wasn't. 

"I can only think that the official policy of this Navy Base/Cemetery is more to discourage and punish visitors than to tighten 'security.'"

It seems to me that this may be a needlessly offensive way for the Navy to treat families of veterans who want to pay homage to their loved ones. It is bad PR for the Navy in my opinion.

I would suggest that the CO review current visitation policy, in order make it easier to access graves at Barrancas National Cemetery. Modern technology should allow you to place trackers on cars of visitors if you worry about them going into "No-Go" zones. Cameras could read license plates. Or you could put MPs at intersections to channel traffic directly to gravesites only. However, hassling families of veterans with excessive paperwork raises serious concerns.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,
Laurence Jarvik

Subsequently, I discovered that this problem had been covered in the Pensacola News Journal at least a couple of times--once, in an article by Melissa Nelson Gabriel published in 2017, and before that, in an April 2016 article that said gate changes were a "headache." And WEAR-TV ran a story about a Gold Star family turned away from visiting their loved ones grave on Christmas Day in 2016!

Yet, despite numerous published complaints, as well as angry online posted comments, little had changed over the past two years. Indeed, no one had even bothered to post a sign at the base entrance advising visitors to take the West Gate for the Museum, or what the procedure would be to visit Barrancas National Cemetery. Not to mention the long line of traffic backed up at the base entrance as people had to make multiple passes via building 777 (we had to go through the Main Gate three times, and the West Gate once).

One former Naval Flight Officer of my acquaintance, himself a decorated Vietnam Veteran, recently told me that one year ago he drove to the Main Gate on his way to the Naval Aviation Museum, only to be told that he needed to go instead to the West Gate, because there were no signs and the posted online information was wrong. Once he drove over to the West Gate, he had to fill out the same two-page form as we did one year later...although the museum has an additional checkpoint to prevent unauthorized base access. I remarked to him that somehow Disney manages to process millions of visitors to their attraction--a known terrorist target--yet protect their facility without making visitors fill out forms.

A few clicks on the internet revealed that the Veterans Administration National Cemetery Administration, which actually runs the cemetery, also appeared to be unhappy with base management at Pensacola NAS, essentially saying, "We know there is a problem. We don't like it, but there is nothing we can do about it. So don't blame us for the SNAFU, blame the US Navy." To wit:

IMPORTANT: The cemetery is located exclusively within the boundaries of Naval Air Station Pensacola, which is an active duty military base. While we work hard to address visitation to the cemetery, access to Barrancas National Cemetery is entirely dependent on access to the Naval Air Station. Hence, both the hours of and the requirements for base access might be more restrictive as well as subject to change on short notice due to Department of Defense regulations and may not always be immediately posted to their website. Therefore, it is vital that you pre-plan your visits accordingly by visiting their visitor information website at as well as their homepage at for notifications/alerts which might change access. If their website is unavailable or you need further information, please call their Pass and Tag (building 777) telephone number at (850) 452-4153 or, in the event that line does not work, the Headquarters Quarterdeck at (850) 452-4785 or 4786.

Additional Helpful Visitor Information
While we cannot forecast or verify all base access requirements or changes to them, some helpful tips include:
- Having an accepted federally issued identification card if you are a current or retired service member or other eligible individual makes base access simpler. Every visitor over the age of 15 having a state issued identification, state issued driver's license or a passport.
- The vehicle driver should have a current state issued driver's license, paper/hardcopy proof of insurance and vehicle registration.
- As of the time of this webpage update (subject to change), all visitors not in possession of an accepted federally issued identification card must enter through the main gate off of Navy Blvd (see DIRECTIONS FROM NEAREST AIRPORT above for how to get to the main gate).
  o Upon arrival to NAS Pensacola all vehicle occupants will be directed to building 777 (Pass & ID, also known as Pass & Tag or Visitor Center) just inside the main gate for proper vetting.
  o Arrive well in advance of your desired time due to potential traffic, vehicle search, building 777 waits, etc. As noted above, access to Barrancas National Cemetery is entirely dependent on access to the Naval Air Station so in the absence of an accepted federally issued identification card you may not be able to enter the base if building 777 is closed or you arrive too late on a weekend. Hence, the importance of checking their website and/or calling the Pass & Tag telephone number.
Pensacola NAS CO CAPT Christopher T. Martin
Of course, we found the Navy's website impenetrable, which is why we drove to the main gate in the first place. In previous years, we had been treated politely, even warmly, by friendly MPs, who seemed genuinely glad that families and friends were visiting loved ones who had served our country. After all, don't our vets deserve to have their families and friends respected, especially when they are coming to honor their service? 

This June, however, the MPs were definitely not friendly, and the attitude of staff in Building 777 reminded me of the Washington, DC Department of Motor Vehicles--an indifferent and hostile bureaucracy. What had changed? 

Apparently the outgoing CO, Captain Keith Hoskins, changed security procedures on his way out the door in 2016--and his replacement, Captain Christopher Martin, did not fix the problems that resulted from tightening the screws on the American taxpaying public who pay their salaries.

Ironically, Captain Martin's command has posted a "Mission and Vision" statement on the Pensacola NAS website which seems to contradict the obviously inefficient, disorganized, unreliable, inhospitable, and unpleasant current gate situation. The statement declares:

Command Mission:
To efficiently deliver the very best Readiness From The Shore.

Command Vision:
Naval Air Station Pensacola is recognized as:
  • The premier naval installation in the Department of the Navy.
  • A model total quality organization that clearly recognizes people as its most valued asset.
  • Exemplary customers, employers, suppliers, and neighbors.
  • Effective and efficient managers of air, land, and sea resources, clearly distinguishing us as the provider of choice for operational and training support.
  • Acknowledged leader in preserving its natural beauty, tradition, and rich history, enhancing our reputation as the most aesthetically pleasing installation in the Navy.
  • Highly ethical stewards of public trust, maintaining both a future focus and daily drive for continuous improvement.

Guiding Principles:
  • lead by example.
  • encourage open communication.
  • give our people the authority and incentive to produce a quality product or service.
  • foster continuous improvement.
  • treat people with dignity and respect.
  • maintain a highly educated and well trained workforce.
  • accomplish our mission through teamwork.
  • promote creativity, initiative, and innovation.
  • are wise stewards of our natural resources.
  • focus on needs of our customer.
  • are responsible and accountable resource managers.
We are committed to:
  • equal opportunity for all.
  • a safe, healthy, drug-free environment.
  • honesty, integrity, and the highest standards of moral and ethical conduct.
  • strong community relations by being a trusted neighbor.
  • professional, safe, responsive, action in support of mission.
  • fact-based decision making.
  • providing the tools and innovative technology to meet future needs.

As the youth of today might say on social media, "HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA ROTFL." 

Clearly, the bad gate experience must be merely a symptom of deeper problems of mismanagement at Pensacola NAS. For example, training flights at the base have been grounded after being found unsafe to fly...and Blue Angels pilot Jeff Kuss died in a plane crash in June 2016.

As Wikipedia says, Barrancas National Cemetery has been in operation as a Navy cemetery since 1838, and a National Cemetery since the Civil War. Visitors have been able to access the site through World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the first Gulf War, after 9/11, the Afghan War, and the second Gulf War, without security being compromised. My in-laws family have been visiting the base since 1918, and I personally had visited without problems until 2018.

So what is going on now in the name of base security is literally unprecedented. As Melissa Nelson Gabriel reported in the Pensacola News Journal, veterans are being driven away from the cemetery, with some deciding not to be buried there because of the hassles involved. 

Navy veteran Richard McFadden wrote on Jan. 9 that he had changed his will to reflect that he no longer wished to be buried at Barrancas.
"I also understand the need for tighter security in light of the terror attacks around the world," he wrote. But, McFadden said, the security has made visiting loved ones buried in Barrancas too difficult for families.
"I did not know Area-51 had moved to NASP," he wrote. "It seems welcome signs have been replaced with locked gates that may or may not be open to the public."

This is shameful.

I certainly hope someone in the Trump Administration, the Navy Department,  Congress, or Veteran's organizations might take a look at the mess at Pensacola NAS and come up with a plan to make visiting it great again, ASAP.  

Our veterans, families, friends, and the American public deserve no less.

BTW:  I've taken the liberty of copying some complaints from TripAdvisor and the Pensacola News Journal below, to give readers an idea of how obvious the problems are, and how long they have been going on. Congress could fill an oversight panel just with those who've posted these sorts of comments, IMHO: 


My wife and I tried to go to Barrancas National Cemetery on Memorial Day to visit the graves of her parents and two other relatives. We usually visit the cemetery at least once a year and often on Memorial Day. We tried to go Memorial Day 2017 and couldn't get to the cemetery due to new restrictions. We are life long residents Pensacola and have visited Barrancas National Cemetery dozens of times including for funerals. Memorial Day we were unable to visit due to all the new regulations. We were told at the gate that since we are not military or DOD we had to park our car at the front gate, go in the visitor center, fill out two pages of paperwork, provide your driver's license, car registration, and proof of insurance. We turned around and left and did not visit my wife's parents graves, due to lack of time that we had. We were in total disgust. Barrancas National Cemetery is a beautiful place and very historic, but I will not visit again under the current regulations. I do not recommend Barrancas National Cemetery.—Reviewed June 23, 2017 by Walter L., Milton, FL

I have lived in the Pensacola area all my life and visited Barrancas National Cemetery many times. My parents and other relatives are buried there and it is a beautiful place for remembering. Tried to go to their grave sites on Memorial Day, but found out you now have to fill out a lengthy form and have your driver license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance to get a pass to enter the base and go to the cemetery. We did not have time to do all that and wait for approval. It was very disappointing and hurtful to not be able to go to their graves. We always enjoy taking our grandchildren when they visit as well, but guess now that will not be possible. This is ridiculous and they need to figure out a way to allow people entry to that cemetery without having to go through all that. I have read and heard of several accounts of people coming from out of town and not being able to visit, because the office was closed or same as me didn't have the time to wait. Also, many are now deciding not to have their veteran family members buried out there and some I understand some are going to the expense of having their loved ones remains moved from there. It is all very troubling and should not be this way!—Reviewed June 1, 2017 by Judy L.

Unless you have an active DOD ID or have an escort, you can no longer get to the cemetery. Base security issues.

Ask ResqPAC about Barrancas National Cemetery—Reviewed May 8, 2016 by ResqPAC, NC


Works at Retired
This is an ongoing problem at NASP since they changed their access procedures a while back. Even those of us with DOD access credentials experienced difficulties during the Wreaths Across America effort in December. The cemetary has been there since 1868. This did not become a problem until the Navy changed their access policy a few years ago. Here's a news flash for the Navy...The VA is not going to relocate those grave sites off of the base and the visiting family members are going to keep on coming to visit their loved ones. A better solution is in order. This is a multi-agency problem. The Navy runs the base while the VA runs the cemetary withing the confines of the base. Might be a good starting project for our junior Congressman from the 1st Congressional District of Florida to become involved with don't ya think?
Like · Reply · 3 · 1y

Bill Snider ·
There is a simpler way. Just fill out the form and be on your way. Base security is more important than a little inconvience once in a while.
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Keith Giddeon
Bill Snider Wrong. Freedom is more important than overblown paranoia. Treating American citizens like criminals is simply intolerable.
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Bill Snider ·
Keith Giddeon It's called sorting out the criminals from the citizens. You can do your part by cooperating instead of complaining.
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Keith Giddeon
So, after living over 50 years crime-free, I am obligated to bow down to paranoia due to the actions of a few. No thanks. I'll not join the Sheeple Parade.
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Works at Retired
Bill Snider Since you are clearly trolling here I'll give you one response. You say “There is a simpler way.” That's the issue here, it's not simple. Particularly for the elderly visitors to the cemetery. I too agree that base security is an important issue. The cemetery has been there since 1868 and is operated by the VA not the Navy. The base was open to the public for so many years so the public could access the cemetery and the museum. But you have to understand; It's not just the Navy's base but it belongs to the public (taxpayers) as well. All I'm saying is that instead of bumping heads, people need to put their heads together and develop a better solution to this problem. At present I only see unilateral decisions being made only by the Navy.
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Yet, on the day of an air show, they just motion 50,000+ cars on through without a second thought! I worked at NASP for over 5 years and I could never understand this. What do you have to do if you are attending a funeral at the chapel?
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Karen Swift
The police department escorted our funeral procession inside the base so we didn't have to stop for this process. One month after the funeral when we decided to visit our loved one, we realized just how lucky we had it that day. We spent 3 hours on base for 5 minutes at the gravesite
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Bill Snider ·
The air show? LOL...My dear, those were controlled situations. Access from the back gate was limited. Access from the front gate was controlled. 
But keep it up. Perhaps if you yell and stomp your feet loud and long enough you can get the air shows cancelled on base and moved to Pensacola Beach instead.
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Marshall Brinson ·
Bill Snider - They didn't even check ID at the gates for the November Air Show. Don't know how you figure any of that was controlled. It is a lot more likely that someone would try something at the air show than a simple visit to the cemetery.
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Karen Swift
My husband and I waited 2 hours just to be called up to the desk after a very inconsiderate lady who had the number before mine, gave it to someone who came in after me and several others. My husband who has a disease that prevents him from walking long distances, was waiting in the car, running of course, as not to overheat. By the time I made it back out to the car just from filing the paperwork, our battery was dead. The base security could not jumpstart our car due to liability issues. We spent a total of 3 hours on the base for less than 5 minutes at the gravesite. I felt belittled, violated, and punished just for trying to visit his father who recently passed.
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Bill Snider ·
Just about everything you mentioned was your own fault.
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Karen Swift
Bill Snider have you been through this specific process? Do you have loved ones buried at barrancas? Do you even have friends with the hateful and bitter heart you have? Please explain your comment about being my fault. How is the fact they only had one person manning the desk that day my fault? How is it my fault that choosing to get a 6 month pass requires you to wait 30 min to an hour even longer than you already have. And unlike you, I don't just think about myself. I think of the several elderly couples there to visit as well. They also cannot stand for long periods of time, walk long distances, and shouldn't be subjected to this process just to visit a deceased relative, one who served our country, which you also probably have never done as you would have more respect for others.
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Joe Winstead Jr. ·
My parents are buried there as well as several of my friends and I think the new rules are BULLSHIT!
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Bill Snider ·
You can either fill out the forms, or not visit. Did you not see the part about getting a 6 month pass? Or do you only visit once a year.
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Steve Lind
This is absolutely UNSAT. This sits squarely in the lap of the base commander to resolve. PERIOD.
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Bill Snider ·
Sure thing Steve. As if the base commander decided to do this on his own. You ever heard of chain of command?
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Marshall Brinson ·
Guess old Bill Snider answered the ad looking for a jackass to monitor the PNJ comments.
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Bill Snider ·
Marshall Brinson and I'm doing a fine job. Speaking of asses...
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Keith Giddeon
And the 9/11 terrorists just keep on winning. I have quite a few relatives buried on Barrancas. However, I will no longer be able to pay my respects, as I do not wish to be treated like a criminal by paranoid government officials.
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Works at Retired
Just sent an email to Rep. Matt Gaetz asking his involvement in this issue. Link to send him an email:
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Sheryl Martin ·
This has been very frustrtating for me as well. I really enjoyed getting the opportunity to visit my dad's columnbarium and Barrancus either when I was on my way over to the Pensacola area for my job or to go visit my son and his family lliving just 10 minutes from the gate and who is in the Coast Guard stationed at PNS. It was so wonderful to just show my ID and be able to go visit with him whenever I wanted and had the time. After the new policy, I've only had one chance to go visit with him and it's been very disappointing for me. To sit and wait for a Pass or even wait for the 6 month pass has just not been a possibility on my time. It would be nice maybe if you could get a permament ID issued on line as a relative to a hero of your own buried at Barancus. We live in Niceville and coming back when it "might" be a good time isn't an option.