The Naval Academy has honored the final wishes of a gay Marine who had told his husband that he wanted his ashes interred at the USNA Columbarium. John Fliszar was a 1971 graduate of the Academy, but what’s so heartwarming is how the Academy treated his husband, Mark Ketterson.
The memorial coordinator asked about his relationship to the deceased. Ketterson said that John Fliszar was his husband. “They were always polite, but there was this moment of hesitation,” Ketterson recalled. “They said they’re going to need something in writing from a blood relative. They asked, ‘Are you listed on the death certificate?’ ‘Do you have a marriage license?’ ” He was and they did, the couple having been married in Des Moines when gay marriage became legal in Iowa two years ago. Ketterson sent a copy of the marriage license. That changed everything.
“I was respected,” he said. “From that moment on, I was next of kin. They were amazing.” The USNA alumni association sent Ketterson a letter expressing condolence for the loss of his husband. The USNA says Fliszar’s interment followed standard operating procedure. “His next of kin was treated with the same dignity and respect afforded to the next of kin of all USNA grads who desire interment at the Columbarium,” said Jennifer Erickson, a spokesperson for the academy. “We didn’t do anything differently.”
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