VA’s National Cemetery Administration (NCA) has had the best customer service grade in the public and private sectors for several years. In part, that’s due to the success of NCA’s National Training Center. This summer, 13 new directors completed training through a program designed to focus on customer service for the families of Veterans.
NCA graduated the new directors on Friday, July 22, from the Cemetery Director Intern Program. The program is the primary source for VA’s cemetery director succession plan and the flagship training course at NCA’s National Training Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Since its inception in 2004, 110 directors have graduated from the program.
This year’s graduates completed a curriculum emphasizing leadership, customer service, business acumen, field operations, and NCA’s history, culture and core values. In addition to spending time in the classroom on subjects ranging from safety to outreach to eligibility, the interns logged hundreds of hours at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, NCA’s fifth-busiest site and a designated training cemetery.
While at Jefferson Barracks, interns learned to set headstones and markers; maintain turf grass, shrubs, trees, equipment, and monuments; conduct interments; and represent VA and NCA to families before, during and after committal services. They traveled to Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minnesota to acquire an understanding of techniques required for effective winter operations.
The interns also worked with mentors assigned for the duration of their training year and for six months after training. Each intern visited his or her mentor’s cemetery to gain further hands-on experience and served as acting directors or foremen.
All of this year’s graduates are Veterans proudly representing the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. Ten of the 13 were selected for the program from within VA’s ranks – eight from NCA and two from the Veterans Benefits Administration.
- Michael D. Brophy, Asst. Director, Sacramento Valley National Cemetery‒Pacific District
- O’Neal Cunningham, Asst. Director, Salisbury National Cemetery–North Atlantic District
- Francisco Gonzalez Jr., Asst. Director, Georgia National Cemetery–Southeast District
- Edward A. Hajduk, Asst. Director, National Cemetery of the Alleghenies–North Atlantic District
- Shawn L. Hamner, Asst. Director, Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery–Midwest District
- Jared D. Howard, Asst. Director, Santa Fe National Cemetery–Pacific District
- Gerard David Lyons, Asst. Director, National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona–Pacific District
- Thomas A. Maynard, Asst. Director, Leavenworth National Cemetery–Midwest District
- Sonny R. Peppers, Asst. Director, Dallas-Ft. Worth National Cemetery–Continental District
- William T. Pickard III, Asst. Director, Ft. Jackson National Cemetery–Southeast District
- Roberto C. Pizarro, Asst. Director, Florida National Cemetery–Southeast District
- Skip Solomon, Asst. Director, Natchez (LA) National Cemetery–Continental District
- Richard Wallace, Asst. Director, Massachusetts National Cemetery–North Atlantic District
Congratulations to our new directors and thank you for your continued service to our nation’s Veterans.
About the author: Robert D. Snyder is VA’s interim chief of staff and works closely with the secretary and deputy secretary in managing VA’s day-to-day operations .