It was disappointing news when Gov. Susana Martinez announced on Tuesday that Roswell was not chosen to be the location for one of four new proposed veterans cemeteries.
Instead of Roswell, the governor chose Fort Stanton in Lincoln County and Carlsbad in Eddy County as sites to serve the southeast corner of New Mexico.
Fort Stanton would be readily accessible to more than 52,000 veterans and eligible family members, according to the governor’s press release explaining why these locations were chosen.
Those living in communities like Alamogordo, Roswell, Capitan, and Carrizozo would be within 75 miles of Fort Stanton. Among the four locations, planning and design for a new veterans cemetery is furthest along in Fort Stanton, given previous efforts to designate a new national cemetery there.
Roswell is about 67 miles from Fort Stanton.
Cabinet Secretary NM Dept. of Veterans Services Timothy Hale said on Wednesday that Roswell was ranked highly among the proposed sites and that Roswell will be a site the state will look at in the future as a location for a veterans cemetery.
The future means it will be during the federal government’s 2016-17 fiscal year before Roswell could be designated an official veterans cemetery.
Hale said that Roswell is still eligible for designation, but the governor had to make a tough decision, and the Fort Stanton area will serve a larger number of veterans.
While disappointed, the Chaves County Veterans Cemetery Board members are not giving up. The state has allocated $250,000 to the city of Roswell for the development of a veterans cemetery, and the city also provided $75,000 to jump start work on a 2-acre section in December.
City workers began installing an irrigation system last week and a grand opening for the Gen. Douglas L. McBride-Roswell Veterans’ Cemetery is planned for July 4.
The official designation would have allowed the Chaves County Veterans Cemetery Board, a nonprofit organization, to receive $300 per veteran burial from the government to help cover costs and allow for other official work at the site.
While this is a setback for the Chaves County project, this doesn’t mean there will never be an official veterans cemetery in Roswell.
“Roswell will be a place we will look at in future,” Hale said.
Hopefully next time there is a list, Roswell will be the top location — and there is little doubt that the Chaves County Veterans Cemetery Board is going to do everything they can to make that happen.