Because the death of any member of the military is the ultimate sacrifice given in service to our country, the policy of adding campaign data to headstones at Arlington National Cemetery, or any other cemetery, is offensive ["Operation Names Added to Gravestones," news story, Aug. 24].

I often have walked in the cemetery at Arlington and felt humbled by the uniform simplicity of the grave markers. Why must we now recognize some markers above others? Have they given anything more than all of the others buried there?

We should support and recognize our troops for who and what they are -- individuals who have taken on the task given to them, and done so with honor and dedication. But we should not use their deaths to advertise a political policy. Congress should put an immediate stop to this practice.

ROLAND SWANSON

Woodbine

*

The Associated Press account of gravestone inscriptions that appeared in The Post Aug. 24 suggested that the government is inscribing "Operation Iraqi Freedom" on the headstones of service members for political purposes.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, which is responsible for providing headstones for veterans, always has inscribed the names of wars on the headstones of veterans. "Operation Iraqi Freedom" is the official name for the current conflict in Iraq. Inscriptions are requested in writing by families and signed by their representative. The families decide what is on their loved one's headstone, not the government.

No doubt, if the government refused to inscribe "Operation Iraqi Freedom" on those headstones, we would be charged with trying to cover up casualties. Let's be fair. And let's end silly reporting.

SCOTT HOGENSON

Deputy Assistant Secretary

for Public Affairs

Department of Veterans Affairs

Washington