One of the final steps in completing Iowa’s new veterans cemetery took place today at the World War Two Veterans Memorial near the state capitol building. The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Jim Nicholson, today handed over the check for nearly eight million dollars to pay for the state’s new veterans cemetery. Nicholson is an Iowa native who returned to the state for the presentation.
Nicholson says we are very fortunate in Iowa to be in the heartland with its values, work ethic and commitment. He says the state has over one-quarter of a million veterans living in the state today. Nicholson says the cemetery will be a fitting tribute to veterans.
Nicholson says there are 25-million living veterans in the U.S. today, and there have only ever been 48-million. He says unfortunately, many of the veterans are getting older, and some 1,900 are dieng every day — mostly from the World War Two generation. Iowa Veterans Affairs Department director Patrick Palmershiem came up with the cemetery idea when then Governor Tom Vilsack asked him how the state could use the proceeds of the sale of veterans medals.
Palmershiem has pushed the project through since his first suggestion four years ago. He says it was emotional in seeing the check issued today. Palmershiem says there have many evenings and weekend hours on the project to get the paperwork done so the project doesn’t get pushed back. The cemetery is under construction in Dallas County near Van Meter. It’s expected to be completed by next fall, and be like the national cemetery in Washington.
Palmershiem says it will be like Arlington National Cemetery, as he says the V-A wants it maintained as a national shrine, the first to be maintained that way. He says Iowa veterans and their spouse are eligible for burial. Palmershiem says they’re putting in 2,000 vaults in the ground and each vault will hold a veteran and their spouse. There’s no cost to bury the veteran, and it will cost the spouse $300 for the vault and the headstone. Palmershiem says they already have the cremains of 20 veterans awaiting internment at the new facility.
Palmershiem says they also have 200 people who have been preapproved to be buried in the cemetery. He says veterans can go to the website: http://www.iowava.org and sign up for approval to be buried at the site. Palmershiem hopes to have the cemetery open by Veterans Day 2008.