By Michael Abeyta
DENVER (CBS4) – In December 2017 Kimberly Vigil lost her husband Elias. He was a Marine and buried at Fort Logan National Cemetery, but Kimberly just couldn’t bear to look at his headstone. Now things have changed.
“It does look better,” said Kimberly on Wednesday.
On a rainy Colorado afternoon, Kimberly Vigil did something she didn’t think she would ever be able to do — visit her husband’s final resting place.
“I thought it was going to be a bigger battle. I thought we were going to have to go a little further than just the news,” Kimberly said on Wednesday.
“I got flowers and I sat here for about two hours and I didn’t think I would be able to do it. But it looks right, it feels right.”
Kimberly’s husband Elias Vigil did a tour in Kuwait during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Like so many who have served in combat, Elias came home with post-traumatic stress disorder. In December of 2017, Elias died by suicide and left behind Kimberly and four kids.
“It was a nightmare,” she said.
Kimberly buried him at Fort Logan in a ceremony with full military honors. After the ceremony, she got the proof for what Elias’ headstone would look like and Kimberly thought something looked wrong. His headstone read “Persian Gulf” instead of Operation Iraqi Freedom. She was confused, because her husband never served in the Gulf War of 1991.
She called Fort Logan.
“They told me that they now put everybody that served in that region in one category,” said Kimberly.
To her, that was unacceptable.
“It’s a total dishonor of service,” says Kimberly, “Like he doesn’t matter. Like what he did for our country doesn’t matter.”
It caused her so much grief that she didn’t think she could ever visit her husband’s grave, but after she told her situation to CBS4 in March, she got a phone call.
“About two days after the story aired, Matthew, who is Fort Logan’s director, called and said he heard I was unhappy with Elias’s headstone and he said that he would change it,” said Kimberly.
Now, almost five weeks later, Elias has a new headstone. And ironically, it’s thanks to Fort Logan whose officials told her she couldn’t change it in the first place.
Kimberly is grateful.
“I feel relieved that he has a new headstone,” she said.
Now Kimberly can visit Elias with peace of mind.
“I know some people think it’s just a headstone, who cares? But I do. It’s all I have left.”