The dream of Roswell’s own veterans cemetery is almost a reality — and fairgoers have an opportunity to be a part of the city’s monumental addition.
Vietnam veteran Bert Eldridge has been vying for a local veterans cemetery for more than a year. His effort was greatly aided by a generous donation of land — 25 acres — located just north of South Park Cemetery. The land was donated by Hanson Operating Co. back in May.
Outspoken and determined, Eldridge said his idea for a veterans cemetery has caught the attention of Congressman Steve Pearce, R-N.M., and Mayor Del Jurney.
“The mayor said he’s going to put (the veterans cemetery) on the fast track,” Eldridge said. He said the matter of the veterans cemetery will be up for discussion during Thursday’s City Council meeting.
In May, Jurney said that even if the city councilors agreed to maintain the cemetery, it could take up to two years before it is fully functional, due to irrigation and fencing issues. However, Eldridge is optimistic about a cemetery he feels is necessary for the community.
“People want to be buried at home,” Eldridge said. “They don’t want to have to go to Santa Fe.”
Eldridge said in May the cemetery could hold about 2,000 plots and serve veterans and their spouses free of charge.
Gearing up for what he feels will be a positive result by the City Council, Eldridge set up a booth in the Eastern New Mexico State Fair’s Commercial Building. He is raising funds to help with the costs of opening and closing graves and for any other costs the cemetery might accrue.
Eldridge is accepting donations and raffling off his own belongings at the booth — including a .30-06 Savage rifle valued at about $420, and an elk hunt for up to two elk, valued at about $5,000.
The winner(s) of the elk hunt would qualify to hunt on Eldridge’s property, where he estimates he has about 40 elk. Tickets for the rifle are $1, or 6 for $5. Tickets for the elk hunt are $10 each. There is still time to help Eldridge’s cause early today, as the drawing will take place later in the day. He also urged visitors to his booth to call city councilors to express their support for the project.
Eldridge said there are about 8,000 veterans in Roswell.
“We need the support from the community to help our veterans,” he said. “That’s all we’re trying to do.”