The state broke ground for the Iowa Veterans Cemetery this weekend. It was a day rich with patriotism as veterans from across the state gathered at site on 100 acres of ground on the south side of Interstate 80 near Van Meter.

Iowa Veterans Affairs Division executive director Patrick Palmershiem says Iowa is one of 13 states without a veterans cemetery and the groundbreaking is a culmination of three years of work toward creating the cemetery. Palmershiem says the site will provide several services, including the opening and closing of graves, headstones, and perpetual care for the gravesites of Iowa’s veterans. Palmershiem says it’ll be a cemetery envied across the United States.

Rhonda Hill spoke on behalf of her father Ronald Kenyon, one of the donors of the land. Hill says, “Perhaps maybe only once in a lifetime are any of us fortunate as we are today, to have the opportunity to permanently honor our veterans for their service to our country, the State of Iowa, and our families. We are pleased to be able offer this small token of our gratitude to those who have preserved the values that we hold so dear.” Bill Knapp was the other donor of the land.

Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack announced plans for the cemetery three years ago on Veterans Day. At the groundbreaking, Vilsack says talked about the U.S. Constitution. He says the founding fathers of the country ended the Declaration of Independence by pledging their lives, their fortune and their sacred honor. Vilsack says the cemetery represents those from Iowa who have pledged their lives, their fortune and their sacred honor.

Vilsack says it’s appropriate that the cemetery be in a farm field as there’s no place in America that better symbolizes the cycle of life than a farm field. Vilsack says millions of people will pass by the cemetery through the years and some will pause for seconds, some for longer, as they reflect on the people and the lives they have represented and given.

Vilsack says once the cemetery is finished, thousands of Iowa veterans will make it their final resting place. Vilsack says, “It’s an important day, because we once again, as we always have, become a people that pay appropriate honor and homage to those who have given us so much. Who have given us an opportunity, unequaled and unparalleled. This is a special day, this is a special place, for very special people.” Palmershiem says they hope to have the cemetery ready for use by Veterans Day of 2007.