Rainy skies cleared over Dublin the morning of Independence Day, just in time for a group of veterans and others to gather at Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery for the presentation of what will be a very important asset to the cemetery and its future visitors.
Officers and members of the Southwest Virginia Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA-SWVC) presented the Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery with a vehicle meant to enhance experiences of visitors with mobility difficulties in an Independence Day ceremony.
MOAA-SWVC Chapter President, David Helmer, whose chapter of MOAA raised $3,600 among its membership to make the donation of the “mobility vehicle” possible, conducted the ceremony. The vehicle is a Club Car golf cart which seats five to six people and will be used to assist cemetery visitors who may have disabilities or mobility limitations in getting around the cemetery in a dignified and safe way.
“The challenge was given to us to do this,” said Helmer. “We’re a small organization compared to a lot of other organizations and chapters within our organization…The Southwest Virginia Chapter runs from Danville, Lynchburg, Lexington, and west to Lee County. This is our facility, so to speak, so we said, ‘No, we’re going to raise the money.’”
Helmer said his chapter started the process last year and raised about half of the money needed for the vehicle, and finished the fundraising over about the last two months.
During the ceremony, Lt. Col. James P. Green spoke about the conception of the cemetery and the process of obtaining the land from the Radford Army Ammunition Plant with the support of George Allen and Rick Boucher, who supported the appropriations bill that granted the land for the cemetery.
“We’re here to dedicate, in essence, this particular vehicle,” said Helmer. “For a lot of people, like Col. Green and others, this is another step in making our dream come true of having a fitting burial place for veterans of Southwest Virginia in a good location here.”
Helmer then presented the keys to Melissah Hall, burial operations manager for SWVA Veterans Cemetery, after which Hall and Green cut a red ribbon adorning the vehicle in celebration of the occasion.
Green was very thankful for the vehicle, saying it will be a great addition to the cemetery.
“The bottom line is that this cemetery is for veterans,” said Green. “There are many veterans that are disabled and cannot walk up hills—this is a very hilly cemetery—and it really is going to be a tremendous help for them to get up the hill to this center and just to tour around the cemetery. It will help them an awful lot and we really do think of that all the time.”
Green said there are already plans in the making to work on securing another cart for use at the Dublin facility.
Hall spoke about the many benefits the vehicle will bring to cemetery visitors.
“It’s very important to the cemetery. It’s very helpful where we can use it for disabled veterans, for transporting them to view the cemetery. It helps with people that come in when they’re pre-arranging…they like to see the cemetery, so when you have the golf cart, you can put them on it and ride through the cemetery and give them a complete tour.” She said it would also be helpful to those who have had a death in the family and wish to see what the cemetery has to offer.
To MOAA-SWVC, Hall expressed her thanks, saying, “We really appreciate everything they’ve done to support the cemetery and the veterans in the area, because it’s really important. We have a lot of people that donate to the cemetery and that’s very helpful to our veterans that are local in the area.”
The brief ceremony was followed by a coffee and donut reception in the cemetery’s administrative building.