Christina Deckard photographs her father’s grave as her friend Jenna Seeley walks him to the Utah Veterans Cemetery and Memorial Park in Bluffdale on Memorial Day, Monday, May 25. (Ivy Ceballo, Deseret News)
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OGDEN – Northern Utah is home to Hill Air Force Base, but there are still no veterans’ cemeteries in any of the surrounding counties. In fact, the only veterans cemetery in the state is the Utah Veterans Cemetery and Memorial, located near Camp Williams in Bluffdale.
All of that will soon change.
According to Utah State Legislature Budget Information Book website.
Bringing a veterans’ cemetery to northern Utah was a “slow and painful process,” said Terry Schow, a Vietnam veteran and former executive director of the Utah Department of Veterans Affairs.
A big part of the reason, Schow said, is that the US Department of Veterans Affairs for many years did not allow a cemetery to be built in an area unless it met a threshold of at least least 25,000 veterans living within a 75 mile radius of the proposed cemetery.
“Utah didn’t meet those criteria except for the one (cemetery) that’s next to Camp Williams,” Schow said.
In 2012, the VA National Cemetery Administration created the Rural Initiative, which would build more veteran cemeteries and expand access for families of veterans hoping to bury their loved ones in a recognized VA cemetery, which Schow says is extremely important. .
In addition to the land, which Schow said is located in an area south of Ogden Regional Medical Center and north of Hill Air Force Base, the state received a $750,000 appropriation from the state legislature. ‘Utah which will cover the preliminary work of the cemetery.
There is a kind of reverence, respect among families. … This is obviously hallowed ground for those who have served our country.
–Terry Schow, Vietnam Veteran
Once the land and cash have been secured, the state has also secured tentative approval from the federal VA, which will construct the cemetery and provide initial equipment before the state resumes day-to-day operations.
“They got credit for doing some of the preliminary design work needed to submit their application to the US Department of Veterans Affairs,” Schow said. “The State Veterans Affairs Office has been working with the National Cemetery Administration on this and they will use funds appropriated by the legislature to begin preliminary site development work.”
The initial costs include the design of the architecture, the layout of the cemetery, the review process of the national environmental policy law, etc. The planned total cost of the cemetery for the first phases would be $15 million – as a reimbursable expense – according to the Compendium of Budget Information website.
The initial phases of the project would only use a portion of the 100 acres acquired, with the remaining land available for future expansion.
For veterans like Schow, having a cemetery close to home would mean “a lot”.
“Federal and state cemeteries hold a special place in the hearts of veterans and their families,” Schow said. “There’s a kind of reverence, respect among families. … It’s obviously hallowed ground for those who have served our country.”
Currently, the VA National Cemetery Administration operates 155 national cemeteries in 42 states and Puerto Rico, as well as 34 soldier lots and monument sites. A complete list of state and tribal veteran cemeteries can be found here.