NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Tens of thousands of veterans live in New Mexico but there are only two national cemeteries across the state and one of them is running out of room.
According to the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services there are 58,000 veterans buried in Santa Fe and there are no plans to expand the area.
Currently more than 170,000 veterans call New Mexico home. Those veterans who want to be buried in a national cemetery have two options: the Santa Fe National Cemetery or Fort Bayard near Silver City.
“A lot of people can’t afford to drive all the way to Santa Fe from all over the state of New Mexico; we want them to be closer to our brothers and sisters,” Michael Valencia said.
In 2013 Governor Susana Martinez pushed to build more veterans cemeteries in more rural areas of the state with the help of federal funding.
The Department of Veterans Services predicts the national cemetery in Santa Fe will be at capacity between 2035- 2040.
Last fall the state broke ground on Fort Stanton, the $5.7 million veteran’s cemetery and is hoping to build three more in the near future. The Department of Veterans Services said it hopes to have a ribbon cutting in the fall of 2017.
The state also uses something called the “75 mile rule” in determining where these new cemeteries will go. It’s a 75 mile radius in areas with the greatest number of vets.
“That’s how we’re targeting this, where is the greatest number of un-served veterans and how can we provide the greatest benefit to them and most importantly their families,” Cabinet Secretary Jack Fox said.