By JIM VINES
Land has been purchased by the Department of Veterans Affairs in Colorado for a new national cemetery.
The cemetery will be constructed in the southeast portion of Colorado Springs. This facility will serve approximately 95,000 veterans and family members who are not within 75 miles of an open national, state or tribal veterans cemetery.
VA completed acquisition of 374 acres of land on Jan. 21 from CS 2005 Investments LLC. This property, known as the Rolling Hills Ranch, is located east of Marksfield Road, between Bradley and Drennan roads.
Once VA receives construction funding, it will proceed with the initial phase of construction, which includes development of cemetery roads, an entrance, administration and public information center, committal shelters and a maintenance facility. This infrastructure will support approximately 10 years of initial burial capacity for casket gravesites, cremation sites and columbarium niches.
This will be the third VA national cemetery in Colorado. The other two are Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver and Fort Lyon National Cemetery in Las Animas. In addition to the two VA national cemeteries, there are two state-run cemeteries. The Veterans Memorial Cemetery of Western Colorado, in Grand Junction, which was funded by a VA construction grant, and Colorado State Veterans Center at Homelake, in Monte Vista.
Veterans with a qualifying discharge, their spouses and eligible dependent children, may be buried in a VA national cemetery. Also eligible are military personnel who die on active duty, their spouses and eligible dependents.
Other burial benefits available for all eligible veterans, regardless of whether they are buried in a national cemetery or a private cemetery, include a burial flag, a Presidential Memorial Certificate and a government headstone or marker.
In the midst of the largest expansion since the Civil War, the VA operates 131 national cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico and 33 soldiers’ lots and monument sites. More than 3.8 million Americans, including veterans of every war and conflict, are buried in VA’s national cemeteries.
Information on VA burial benefits can be obtained from national cemetery offices at www.cem.va.gov, calling VA regional offices toll free at 800-827-1000 or by contacting a veterans service officer with a veterans organization. To make burial arrangements at any VA national cemetery at the time of need, call the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 800-535-1117.
Whether active duty or retired, construct a file containing copies of a DD-214, birth certificate, and any military records available, in order to make this important affair easier on a loved one and the family when the time arrives. This simple task will help eliminate some of the stress.
Speak to you again next week.
Jim Vines is commander of AmVets Post 133.