NEW MEXICO STATE VETERANS’ CEMETERY PROGRAM
The State Veterans’ Cemetery Program is a statewide strategic initiative to plan, design and construct up to four State Veterans’ Cemeteries in Ft. Stanton, Gallup, Angel Fire, and Carlsbad, New Mexico within the next five years. The goal is to provide an easily accessible and honorable final resting place for rural-area veterans, and to accommodate their future burial needs.
The four selected sites represent areas of the state with large, underserved veteran populations. In July of 2013, Governor Susana Martinez announced the launch of the State Veterans’ Cemetery Program Initiative to seek construction funding through the VA’s Cemetery Grant Program. The primary purpose of the grant is to help states whose burial needs are not met by existing VA national cemeteries to build VA-funded-but-state-managed veterans cemeteries.
Presently, New Mexico—the mostly rural, fifth-largest state in the nation in terms of size—has just two national cemeteries: Santa Fe National Cemetery in northern New Mexico, and Ft. Bayard National Cemetery in the southwestern part of the state. According to VA data, more than 150,000 veterans live beyond the VA’s designated 75-mile service-area radius of these two cemeteries. For families of these veterans, the two locations are too far for consideration for burials. These families are relegated to burying their loved ones in local, non-veteran cemeteries—or face drives of several hours for future visitations.
The Governor launched the initiative to provide a solution for these rural-area veterans.
On October 2, 2015, the VA approved the state’s application and awarded a grant in the amount of $5.7 million for New Mexico to construct its first State Veterans’ Cemetery at Ft. Stanton in the southeastern part of the state. Groundbreaking took place on November 11, 2015—Veterans Day. The cemetery is scheduled to be completed by Veteran’s Day 2017.
In addition, the VA also notified Governor Martinez that the state’s application for a veterans’ cemetery in Gallup has been accepted for inclusion on the VA’s 2016 list of pre-approved cemetery sites. The same design and architectural pre-requisite for the Ft. Stanton process are currently being worked on for the proposed Gallup State Veterans’ Cemetery. Efforts to establish cemeteries in Carlsbad and Angel Fire will also proceed—with applications for other communities planned in the coming years.
The State Veterans’ Cemetery Program is managed by Thomas Wagner, a U.S. Army veteran and double Purple Heart Recipient from the Vietnam War who, prior to coming to the NMDVS, had a long upper-management career with the VA in Washington, D.C., Houston and Albuquerque. Tom can be reached at email@example.com or (505) 827-6309.