Lawmakers: We Need More National Cemeteries

Monday, 03 Feb 2014 10:29 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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As the military veteran population increases, so does the need for more national cemeteries.

National cemeteries across the country are reaching capacity, and legislators — especially those with large veteran populations — are asking the government to approve additional sites, Fox News reports.

The Department of Veterans Affairs' National Cemetery Administration maintains 131 national cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico. But 11 states — with a combined veteran population of 1.8 million — don't have a national cemetery, according to Rep. Dina Titus, a Democrat from Nevada, the state with the largest veteran population without a national cemetery.

According to Titus, Nevada is home to 301,000 vets, 170,000 of whom live in Las Vegas. And that figure is rapidly growing.

"It is my belief that the option of a burial in a VA national cemetery, in the state you call home, is a solemn obligation our government should fulfill," Titus said at an October hearing before the House Committee on Veteran Affairs.

Nevada resident Jack Ford, a 25-year Navy veteran, told Fox News that for a serviceman, being buried in a national cemetery is the ultimate honor for one's sacrifice.

"Unless you've experienced it, it's hard to describe," he said. "It's a place where you're with your fellow comrades and you're recognized for having dedicated your life to your country's service."

Titus spoke on behalf of Ford and other vets who object to being laid to rest in a state cemetery. Many state cemeteries receive federal funding to accommodate the veteran population.

"As veterans, we served our nation," Ford explained. "I think it's only reasonable that we have a national cemetery we can be laid to rest in."

Other states with no national cemeteries include Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wyoming, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VA is planning to build five new cemeteries with the "strategic goal of providing an honored veterans burial to 96 percent of the veteran population within 75 miles of where they live," the VA said in a statement to Fox.

According to a VA study, the veteran population is getting younger and there will be higher growth in the southern and western regions of the country.

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