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Monday, July 6, 2009

Veterans getting new home and cemeteries

The Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs has submitted a formal application for a state cemetery and they've heard Alabama is at the top of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs priority list.

The department will likely find out if they'll get federal funding for the 103-acre cemetery when the FY2010 budget is announced, ADVA spokesman Robert Horton said.

ADVA is also waiting to see if they'll get federal funding for the fourth veterans home, currently in the first phase. The design is nearly complete, but construction can't get underway without the $26 million from the federal VA.
The federal VA also officially opened is 129th national cemetery last month at Montevallo. The 479-acre national cemetery is expected to serve veterans for at least the next 50 years.

In October 2008, VA awarded a construction contract for $3.7 million to BSI Contracting Inc., a service-disabled, Veteran-owned small business in Birmingham, to develop a small burial area. That 12.7-acre section, with 1,095 casket gravesites and nearly 1,000 in-ground cremation sites, will provide approximately two years of burials, enabling VA to begin providing services while the remainder of the cemetery's larger first phase of development is completed.

When complete, the first phase will consist of approximately 45 developed acres with more than 6,000 additional gravesites and 2,700 columbarium niches, as well as facilities needed to operate and to provide burials for approximately 10 years. The new cemetery will include an administration and public information center complex, including an electronic gravesite locator and public restrooms, a maintenance building, an entrance area, a flag assembly area, a memorial walkway and two committal shelters for funeral services. Other infrastructure elements include roadways, landscaping, utilities and irrigation.

The new cemetery serves approximately 200,000 veterans in the region and will be the third national cemetery in Alabama. The state's other national cemeteries are in Seale and Mobile.

Veterans with a discharge issued under conditions other than dishonorable, their spouses and eligible dependent children can be buried in a VA national cemetery. Other burial benefits available for all eligible veterans, regardless 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. Families of eligible decedents may also order a memorial headstone or marker when remains are not available for interment.

In the midst of the largest expansion since the Civil War, VA operates 130 national cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico and 33 soldiers' lots and monument sites. More than three million Americans, including veterans of every war and conflict, are buried in VA's national cemeteries on nearly 18,000 acres of land.

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I grew up in the military. Mom was an Air Force nurse for a few years, dad was a navigator on B-52s, among other things. One grandfather served in World War II, uncle is retired Navy, other grandfather and great-uncle served in Korea and a cousin is currently serving in the Marine Corps. Currently, I'm the military reporter for the Great Falls Tribune in Montana. Previously, 


As a military kids, we moved all over. As an adult, I've traveled all over and moved for work. But now, I'm putting down roots in Montana with my boyfriend. We just bought a house and are slowly but surely making it our home. We have more land that we know what to do with at the moment. Now we're getting a garden started, tearing down walls and having loads of fun at what we call the Homestead.

In a part life, I did PR for the guy who built the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall, social media for the National Museum of Health and Medicine, before that, edited two military technology magazines for a publishing group in the DC area and before that, I was the military reporter (among other things) at the Montgomery Advertiser, covering Maxwell Air Force Base, the Alabama National Guard, veterans and anything else military related in the area. And in between all of that, I leave town, preferably the country, whenever possible. It all started when I spent a semester in New Zealand.

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