Santa Cruz Good Times

Friday
Sep 04th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Burial Grounds

news1The state moves forward with funding for new veterans cemetery at Fort Ord

For the tens of thousands of veterans who have lived and passed away in recent years in the Monterey Bay Area, as well as their families, the nearest national veterans cemetery is almost a two-hour drive away in the San Joaquin Valley.

Some veterans' families, dedicated to burying their loved one in a state or national cemetery but reluctant to inter them in a place so far from home, have kept cremated remains and are waiting for a new veterans cemetery to open that won't require so much travel, says Arnold Leff, commander for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in Santa Cruz.

State leaders took a big step toward just that last week, on Thursday, Oct. 10, when Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 232, acquiring $1 million for the long-planned Central Coast State Veterans Cemetery. It will be constructed on 78 acres of land on the old Fort Ord military base that are currently covered with scrub oaks and brush.

Now that the governor has signed the bill, which was authored by Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel), an additional $1 million will be contributed to the project fund by an undisclosed, “non-local” source, says Mayor of Carmel Jason Burnett, a key proponent of the veterans cemetery.

The cemetery will serve the approximate 100,000 veterans and their families living in five surrounding counties: Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito, Santa Clara, and San Luis Obispo.

The state will build and operate the Central Coast State Veterans Cemetery, but all construction expenses on the state level will be reimbursed.

On Oct. 1, Congressman Sam Farr secured federal government funds in the amount of $6.7 million, covering the bulk of the expenses.

With the $2 million from the state and unknown private donor, plus the federal funding. There was more than $600,000 left to be raised on the local level.

Burnett explains that the state would not accept the federal grant unless they raised the final portion on the local level with an Oct. 15 deadline.

Burnett, in collaboration with Jimmy Panetta—the secretary for the Central Coast Veterans Cemetery Foundation, son of former CIA director and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and Afghanistan War veteran—acquired bridge loans from the Packard Foundation and Cannery Row in Monterey totaling the amount needed, locking in the federal source. Though, Burnett says, fundraising is still crucial.

news1-2The long-planned Central Coast State Veterans Cemetery will be constructed on 78 acres of land on the old Fort Ord military base. Photos courtesy of the bureau of land management“There's a huge need for this cemetery on the Central Coast,” Burnett says. “The closest national cemetery is hours away in the San Joaquin Valley. That's a much different part of the state. A lot of veterans made their home on the Monterey Bay, and you want to be close to the place that's your home.”

Panetta recently met with a woman from the Monterey Peninsula whose father was a highly decorated World War II veteran. When he passed away, she had him buried in a national cemetery down south, but now has to travel for hours to visit his grave.

“Her question to me was, 'Can he be disinterred and re-buried up here in the Central Coast cemetery?’” Panetta says. “I think it's important to not only give back to the veterans and honor them for their service, but also to honor their families for their sacrifice by giving them a burial area that they can get to easily.”

The first phase of construction for the cemetery will only include the general infrastructure and an aboveground columbarium for cremated remains, Burnett says.

The second phase will be an in-ground burial—“What people typically think of for a grave site,” he says.

Santa Cruz veteran Leff says he has some concerns about the plans for the new cemetery.

“The money they have will just put down some gravel and get us some places where families can put the cremated remains of their loved ones,” he says. “There's not enough money for a true veterans cemetery—grass, headstones, burials with flags over the casket. That's what military cemeteries are all about.”

Burnett agrees with Leff's concerns and says Phase 1 for the cemetery has more to do with getting the project's momentum going.

“This project is not done until we get Phase 2 built,” he says. “You have to start somewhere, and Phase 1 is right around the corner.”

He says Phase 1 is also about demonstrating to the federal government that the state can build the cemetery and operate it successfully, earning them the right to go back to the federal government down the line and request more grant money for Phase 2.

The project still requires an environmental review period and to have architectural drawings made, so beginning construction is still down the line, Burnett says. No start date has been set.

While ultimately the federal government will cover the expenses for the state cemetery, Leff says it would have been much better if the Central Coast Veterans Cemetery were a national one.

That would have cut down significantly on the level of bureaucratic negotiation and sped up the whole process, but the law states that no two national cemeteries can be built within 75 miles of one another. And while the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery takes about two hours to drive to, it's just 52 miles away from Fort Ord.

“The California budget goes up, down and sideways very often,” Leff says. “And to depend upon the state budget to keep it open is not as trustworthy as having the federal government own it.”

Panetta says collaboration between the state and federal government on the cemetery funding plans have gone smoothly, but that it is a little like having “multiple chefs in the kitchen.”

For the ongoing management and maintenance of the cemetery, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will pay $700 into the operation for every burial.

Panetta says that should cover the ongoing expenses.

The Central Coast Veterans Cemetery would only be the second state cemetery in California. The other is in Shasta County. There are nine national cemeteries in California, only six of which are open for new interments.

In a press statement, Monning, whose district includes Santa Cruz, said securing the funds for the cemetery and authorizing the construction is a big win for California and the result of years of effort.

“The governor’s signature on SB 232 is the culmination of a long journey we have been on with our local, state, and federal partners to move this cemetery project forward,” he said. “It is an honor to be able to make this contribution to the community and support the establishment of the veterans cemetery at Fort Ord.”

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

You Are What You Post

Online personality algorithms put astrological profiles to shame, but UCSC psychologists are raising questions about sharing personal data

 

Venus Direct, Mercury Retro Soon, Honoring Our Labors

As Burning Man (nine days, Aug. 30-Sept. 7 in the sign of Virgo) burns in the hot white desert sands, a petal of the rose created by retrograde Venus and the twelve-petaled Sun in Virgo’s petals unfold. All of us are on the burning ground (Leo) in the womb (cave of the heart) of the mother (Virgo), gestating for humanity once again (each year) a new state of consciousness. Both Virgo and Cancer, feminine (receptive energies) signs, are from our last solar system (Pleiades). When humanity first appeared on Earth we were nurtured by the mother, a matriarchy of energies (on islands in the Pacific). Eve, Isis and Mary are part of the lineages of our ancient Mother. Overseen by the Pleiades, the Earth (matter, mater, the mother) in that last solar system was imbued with intelligence (Ray 3). As we move toward autumn, another mother, Ceres realizes she has mere weeks left with her beloved daughter, Persephone. Persimmon and pomegranate trees prepare for autumn, their colors signs of hope as the light each day continues to dim. Sunday, Venus in Leo turns stationary direct, yet continues in her shadow until Oct. 9 (when retrograde Mercury turns direct). Slowly our newly assessed values emerge from the Venus retrograde. We thought in Venus retro how to use our resources more effectively. Mercury retrogrades Sept. 17. Monday is Labor Day. Let us honor the labor of everyone, all life a “labor.” Let us honor Labor Day and all those who have “served” (labored for) us this past year. We honor their labors. We honor the labor of our parents, those who have loved us. We honor our own labors, too. We are all in service, we are all laboring. We are all valuable.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Girl Gone Wild

’70s SF recalled in raw, poignant ‘Diary of a Teenage Girl’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Sushi Garden

Local sushi empire expands to Scotts Valley

 

Do you overshare online?

I don’t think so. I just post things about my life, like successful things. Sometimes I just like sharing different news that I find interesting, or favorite artists, clothes, music. I like to post photos. Natalia Delgado, Santa Cruz, Server

 

McIntyre Vineyards

I recently met up with three friends for dinner at Sanderlings at Seascape Beach Resort. We chose to eat outside so we could watch the sun set over the ocean, but the Aptos fog rolled in and swallowed it up.

 

Sustainable Supper

The Homeless Garden Project’s Sustain Supper series supports its award-winning programs