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State Cemetery Opening in Idaho Marks VA Milestone

November 24, 2004

The State of Idaho has added a landmark event by opening a state veterans cemetery in Boise. The state was the only one that did not have a veterans cemetery. It gave up that distinction on Nov. 16 with the aid of a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) grant of $8.2 million for construction.

There is now an operational national or state veterans cemetery in every state of the union, as well as Puerto Rico and Guam.

"This new state veterans cemetery means that Idaho veterans no longer have to go out of state to receive the burial benefits promised to them by a grateful nation," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi.

The VA grant to building the cemetery was awarded in 2002. A dedication ceremony occurred July 31, 2004, before construction was finished. The initial construction plan calls for development of 30 acres of the 77-acre site and includes a total of 8,640 gravesites. That includes 2,930 traditional casket gravesites, 2,226 pre-placed crypts, 2,204 in-ground cremation niches and 1,280 columbarium niches. Other elements include a committal service shelter, an administration and maintenance building and an assembly area.

Approximately 122,000 veterans reside in Idaho. Before the state opened its cemetery, the closest open national cemetery for local veterans was Willamette National Cemetery in Portland, Ore., about 425 miles northwest of Boise.

One burial took place while the new cemetery was under construction. Governor Dick Kempthorne gave special approval to inter Army Specialist Brandon Titus, a Boise resident who was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad, Iraq.

VA's State Cemetery Grants Program complements VA's national cemeteries. The grants have helped establish, expand or improve 57 state veterans cemeteries that provided more than 19,000 burials in fiscal year 2004. Five additional state cemeteries are under construction. Since the program began in 1980, VA has awarded 137 grants of more than $209 million to 32 states and Guam.

Information about the grants program is available by contacting VA's State Cemetery Grants Service at (202) 565-6801 or visiting its website at http://www.cem.va.gov/grants.htm

Eligibility for burial in the Idaho States Veterans Cemetery is based on the same criteria as burial in a VA national cemetery. More details may be obtained by calling the Idaho Department of Veterans Affairs at (208) 334-4796.

VA operates 120 national cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico, 33 soldiers' lots and monument sites. More than three million Americans, including veterans of every war and conflict - from the Revolutionary War to the current war in Iraq - are buried in VA's national cemeteries.

Source: Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration

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