ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Veterans living in rural parts of New Mexico got some welcome news on Tuesday with the announcement that four locations could be getting state run cemeteries for veterans.
Governor Susana Martinez said Carlsbad, Fort Stanton, Gallup and Angel Fire were selected from a list of ten through town hall meetings held in 2013.
Currently, there are only two choices of national cemeteries in the state, one in Santa Fe and the other in Fort Bayard. In a large state like New Mexico which covers 121,000 square miles, the U.S. Department of Veterans’s Affairs would like to see a cemetery within 75 miles of areas heavily populated by veterans.
“I grew up in Roswell, New Mexico and so if I were to be buried in a national cemetery, it’d be nice to be closer
to home,” says Gary Peterson, a veteran living in New Mexico.
The state is essentially putting a down payment on each of the sites for a grand total of about $600,000 which was appropriated in this year’s legislative session. Each three to five acre site would cost about $1.5-million and would be managed by the state. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs would pay the rest. The four locations will be submitted to the V.A. in July. After that, its up to the V.A. if those spots will be approved for construction.
The state will recoup the $600,000 through a V.A. grant once ground is broken. The V.A. is expected to make their decision by October of this year.
“The V.A. goal is to try and have 75 miles from a cemetery,” says New Mexico Department of Veterans’ Services Secretary Timothy Hale. “That’s a hard goal to reach in New Mexico. So we’re just making the first step to try and move those cemeteries out a little closer to the people.”
Secretary Hale tells KRQE News 13 that if the four sites aren’t approved by the V.A., the money set forth by the state will go back to the general fund.