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Vets’ cemetery plan moves forward closer to reality

Military veterans from across southwest Virginia paid a visit to Dublin on Monday morning to witness a monumental land transfer between the U.S. Army and the Commonwealth of Virginia
As the Army conveyed 79.8 acres of its land to the Commonwealth, the Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery moved one step forward in its journey to completion.
That journey had been a long time coming, but it officially began in 2006 when Ninth District Congressman Rick Boucher introduced a bill into the U.S. Congress. Congress passed the bill, and it was signed into law by President Bush. The law directed that the land be transferred from the U.S. Army to the Commonwealth of Virginia for the purpose of establishing southwest Virginia’s first veterans cemetery.
At Monday’s ceremony in Dublin, Boucher noted that the closest veterans cemetery in Virginia is in Amelia County, which is about five hours away from this area, so the need for a veterans cemetery in southwest Virginia is great.
As a higher percentage of the local population has served in the military than the national average, Boucher said that in order to “honor properly those southwest Virginians who have served the nation in uniform,” he made it a goal to build a veterans cemetery in the Ninth District.
Gov. Tim Kaine told those attending the ceremony that Boucher has been a “passionate advocate” for this project, and “we wouldn’t be here today without his personal dedication to this cause.”
As Kaine addressed the crowd, he described Virginia as a state “rich in military tradition and rich in veterans,” noting that one out of every 10 Virginians is a military veteran, not including military service members, such as those on active duty, Reserve and National Guard soldiers, military families, civilians who work for the service branches and the Department of Defense, and military contractors.
“I don’t think there is a state in this country that has more of its citizenry directly engaged in the mission of protecting this nation and working with the service branches or who have done so in the past as a veteran,” said Kaine.
He finished by saying, “We can do a lot of things as a government here in Virginia, but there is one thing we can’t do. Neither the government or legislation of Virginia can change the conditions of war. We can’t make it any easier on those members who are serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. We have no power over that. But what we do have power over is how we treat our military veterans when they are in Virginia. And that’s why days like today are so important.”
“This cemetery meets a long-standing need in southwest Virginia. That need, appropriately, is to honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans,” said Lt. Col. Jon Drushal, commander of Radford Army Ammunition Plant, as he addressed the crowd. “As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Any nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure. ‘ “
Dublin Mayor Benny Skeens also had the opportunity to address the crowd on behalf of the Town of Dublin.
Skeens said he believes that a very appropriate site was chosen for the cemetery, because at the start of World War II, the Radford Arsenal was put on line in less than a year, and many of the people who worked there were “ladies who had never worked outside the home. They were the true ‘Rosie the Riveter.’ “
He added, “They weren’t working for the money. They were working because they had a brother, husband, son, or someone serving overseas and that was part of their effort to win the war. They took great pride in the fact that they could assist the U.S. when time was needed in this effort.”
“So, we feel like this is a very appropriate site. It’s a beautiful site, and it’s going to be even more beautiful once all the work is done. We’re very excited for that,” he said.
The Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery will be built in four phases. The first phase, which is projected to meet the needs of the cemetery for 10 years, will include 5,250 casketed grave sites, 500 above-ground cremation sites and 500 in-ground cremation sites, according to a fact sheet provided to those in attendance at Monday’s ceremony.
The cemetery is expected to be completed by late 2010.
In addition to the speakers mentioned above, Frank Conner, vice chairman of the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors, Vince Burgess, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, William F. Tuerk, under secretary for memorial affairs with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. and John Edwards, state senator representing the 21st District, all addressed the crowd.
You may contact Jena Hardy at jena@southwesttimes.com

Vets’ cemetery plan moves forward closer to reality

Military veterans from across southwest Virginia paid a visit to Dublin on Monday morning to witness a monumental land transfer between the U.S. Army and the Commonwealth of Virginia
As the Army conveyed 79.8 acres of its land to the Commonwealth, the Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery moved one step forward in its journey to completion.
That journey had been a long time coming, but it officially began in 2006 when Ninth District Congressman Rick Boucher introduced a bill into the U.S. Congress. Congress passed the bill, and it was signed into law by President Bush. The law directed that the land be transferred from the U.S. Army to the Commonwealth of Virginia for the purpose of establishing southwest Virginia’s first veterans cemetery.
At Monday’s ceremony in Dublin, Boucher noted that the closest veterans cemetery in Virginia is in Amelia County, which is about five hours away from this area, so the need for a veterans cemetery in southwest Virginia is great.
As a higher percentage of the local population has served in the military than the national average, Boucher said that in order to “honor properly those southwest Virginians who have served the nation in uniform,” he made it a goal to build a veterans cemetery in the Ninth District.
Gov. Tim Kaine told those attending the ceremony that Boucher has been a “passionate advocate” for this project, and “we wouldn’t be here today without his personal dedication to this cause.”
As Kaine addressed the crowd, he described Virginia as a state “rich in military tradition and rich in veterans,” noting that one out of every 10 Virginians is a military veteran, not including military service members, such as those on active duty, Reserve and National Guard soldiers, military families, civilians who work for the service branches and the Department of Defense, and military contractors.
“I don’t think there is a state in this country that has more of its citizenry directly engaged in the mission of protecting this nation and working with the service branches or who have done so in the past as a veteran,” said Kaine.
He finished by saying, “We can do a lot of things as a government here in Virginia, but there is one thing we can’t do. Neither the government or legislation of Virginia can change the conditions of war. We can’t make it any easier on those members who are serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. We have no power over that. But what we do have power over is how we treat our military veterans when they are in Virginia. And that’s why days like today are so important.”
“This cemetery meets a long-standing need in southwest Virginia. That need, appropriately, is to honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans,” said Lt. Col. Jon Drushal, commander of Radford Army Ammunition Plant, as he addressed the crowd. “As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Any nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure. ‘ “
Dublin Mayor Benny Skeens also had the opportunity to address the crowd on behalf of the Town of Dublin.
Skeens said he believes that a very appropriate site was chosen for the cemetery, because at the start of World War II, the Radford Arsenal was put on line in less than a year, and many of the people who worked there were “ladies who had never worked outside the home. They were the true ‘Rosie the Riveter.’ “
He added, “They weren’t working for the money. They were working because they had a brother, husband, son, or someone serving overseas and that was part of their effort to win the war. They took great pride in the fact that they could assist the U.S. when time was needed in this effort.”
“So, we feel like this is a very appropriate site. It’s a beautiful site, and it’s going to be even more beautiful once all the work is done. We’re very excited for that,” he said.
The Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery will be built in four phases. The first phase, which is projected to meet the needs of the cemetery for 10 years, will include 5,250 casketed grave sites, 500 above-ground cremation sites and 500 in-ground cremation sites, according to a fact sheet provided to those in attendance at Monday’s ceremony.
The cemetery is expected to be completed by late 2010.
In addition to the speakers mentioned above, Frank Conner, vice chairman of the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors, Vince Burgess, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, William F. Tuerk, under secretary for memorial affairs with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. and John Edwards, state senator representing the 21st District, all addressed the crowd.
You may contact Jena Hardy at jena@southwesttimes.com