A coalition of area veterans and leaders said Tuesday they will seek to be the first to submit an application to the state to provide a national veterans’ cemetery in Roswell.
The statement followed Gov. Susana Martinez’s announcement that her administration is developing a statewide strategic veterans’ cemetery plan to establish cemeteries for the state’s rural-area veterans.
“The goal is to provide resting places that meet the highest federal standards for the largest portion of New Mexico’s veteran population that live a great distance from the three federal cemeteries currently available to them at Santa Fe, Ft. Bayard and Ft. Bliss,” Martinez said in a press release.
The New Mexico Department of Veterans’ Services will hold meetings with state mayors through September and community and county commission meetings through November. The department will develop applications for three or four locations with the hope of identifying up to 10 sites that are 3- to 5-acres in size.
Greg Neal, vice president of Southeastern New Mexico Veterans’ Transportation Network, said an effort led by Mayor Del Jurney, City Planner Michael Vickers, Cabinet Secretary Col. Tim Hale and the Roswell Veterans Coalition led by Bert Eldridge and Harry McGraw are submitting the city’s application for this grant.
This will be the first in the state to be submitted, Neal said.
“It is anticipated that we will have an answer from the VA by Jan. 14 as to when actual work can begin,” Neal said. “This proves when parties have a common goal, they can work together to achieve success.”
To serve veterans, the state Department of Veterans’ Services is drafting a plan which expects to spend $390,000-$640,000 to develop up to three to four small 3- to 5-acre veterans’ cemeteries in rural areas, according to the governor’s office. The funding must be appropriated by the state Legislature.
The state could recoup a portion of this start-up funding by applying for a special VA Cemetery Grant, which matches on a dollar-per-dollar amount of any money spent by a state or tribal areas.
The department would manage the new cemeteries. Any funding committed by the Legislature would be contingent on a community being able to secure the 3 to 5 acres needed. The cemeteries would meet VA development standards and conditions in place for all national cemeteries.
The Santa Fe National Cemetery is expected to reach full capacity within about 15 years; Ft. Bliss is projected to reach full capacity by 2025.
Roughly 131,000 of the state’s 172,595 veterans live beyond the 75-mile radius surrounding the state’s national cemeteries.