There’s a push in Congress to build more National Cemeteries as space becomes more limited in the existing cemeteries. Currently, there are 11 states that don’t have National Cemeteries and Democrat Representative Dina Titus of Nevada is trying to change that. She has introduced a bill that would create new cemeteries in those states because she feels all veterans are entitled to be buried with dignity.
So just what exactly does a National Cemetery mean to a veteran? To Lexington, KY, Marine veteran Matt Sims, these cemeteries mean “everything.” For the past two and a half years he’s worked as the New Albany, IN, National Cemetery caretaker. He also works, as needed, at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery in Louisville, KY.
“My first caretaker position was at Camp Nelson National Cemetery just outside Lexington,” says Sims. “My wife and I were getting ready to move to California but then I heard about a job opening at Camp Nelson. I had always wanted to work there; I was truly honored to have been able to.”
An employee of the National Cemetery Administration, which falls under Veterans Affairs, Sims mows grass, lays turf, rakes leaves and maintains headstones. “It gives me a great sense of patriotic pride every day when I perform my job duties,” he says.
The New Albany cemetery was established in 1862 to accommodate the burial of Union soldiers. Today there are around 7,000 soldiers and soldiers’ spouses buried in the 5-acre cemetery. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
Sims explains that veterans, their spouses and their young dependents are eligible to be buried in a National Cemetery. “On Memorial Day local veterans hold a ceremony here. Boy Scouts place an American flag at each grave and Girl Scouts lay a rose on each grave.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Cemetery Administration maintains 131 National Cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico as well as 33 soldiers’ lots and monument sites.
“I hope they create more National Cemeteries,” Sims adds. “Every veteran should be able to be buried in one if they choose to be.”
Have you ever visited a national cemetery? Do you think every state should have them? Should Congress appropriate funds for the construction of additional cemeteries?
Until next time…