The Iowa Veterans Cemetery near Winterset was dedicated today in in beautifula sunny weather in front of a crowd of several hundred veterans and their families.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs gave the state 7.6 million dollars to build the cemetery on land donated by Iowans Bill Knapp and Ronald Kenyon.
Kenyon’s daughter Rhonda Hill helped design and build the cemetery. She says now that the cemetery is complete and no long a stack of papers in front of them, she believes it is "something that all Iowans, and especially our veterans will be proud of for generations to come."
Hill talked about the importance of honoring veterans. Hill says veterans come from all walks of life, representing many ethnic groups, religions and races. "However they do have a common bond, and that is, they have answered a call to duty, a call to serve, a call to serve a cause that is larger than themselves," Hill said.
Governor Chet Culver gave the keynote address for the dedication. Culver says being an Iowan means many things to many people, but one common bond unites us all, "a never ending commitment to serving our fellow citizens." Culver says that commitment was evident most recently in the thousands of volunteers that turned out to help fight the flooding.
Culver says military service is also one of the ways Iowans have long served others. "They dedicated their lives to protecting our very way of life and deserve a final resting place benefiting their service and sacrifice," Culver says, "working with our federal partners and Iowans from all walks of life, we decided to build more than a just final resting place for our soldiers, we decided to create a lasting tribute to the service and sacrifice of our Iowa veterans."
Culver says the cemetery will be a place to always honor veterans. Culver says it will be a quiet, beautiful resting place that "will forever stand as a tribute to the generations of courageous Iowans who fought to protect and defend our freedom."
The director of the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs, Patrick Palmersheim, is credited with pushing the idea forward and getting the cemetery build. Palmersheim says after years of working on the project, he wasn’t sure if it would get done.
Palmershiem says, "No I did not, I’m just overwhelmed that it got here. As I think back to the paperwork and all the way through the process, how demanding it was, and it kept going back and forth and I didn’t really have the staff to do it. But I continued forward with it, I knew that the Iowa veterans deserved it and needed it." Palmershiem says there’s now the staff to ensure the cemetery is kept up to national standards.
Palmershiem says they have seven full-time staff members on the site, with four members dedicated to doing the maintenance and the burials. The cemetery director says there are remains of some 70 veterans waiting to be interred at the cemetery and there have been 1,000 applications for approval to be buried. Veterans from Iowa can be buried at no cost and their spouses can be buried in the cemetery for $300. The first phase of the cemetery includes 40 acres and is projected to meet the state’s needs for 20 years.