Glennville is one of two Veterans cemeteries run by Georgia’s Department of Veterans Service. The cemetery’s service area is the lower third of the Peach State, but Director Ernie Cowart told me that since its dedication in late 2007, Veterans and family members from 31 of Georgia’s 159 counties have been interred here. Some state cemeteries impose residency requirements, but Georgia welcomes all Veterans and family members who otherwise meet VA’s eligibility criteria for burial.
Through our Veterans Cemetery Grants Program VA partners with states and tribal organizations to ensure Veterans have access to burial benefits even where there are no national cemeteries nearby. Since 1980, the federal government has awarded more than $438 million in grants to states and territories to establish Veterans cemeteries, and will award the first grant to a tribal organization later this year. VA pays 100% of development costs to plan and build cemeteries on land provided by the states or tribal organizations; the states or tribes then maintain and operate the cemetery.
There are now 81 such cemeteries in 39 states, Guam and Saipan. Four more are currently under construction in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and West Virginia, to open by spring 2012.
Although the Glennville cemetery is still in its initial phase of development, it’s quickly become a fixture in the region. Pam Waters, who interviewed me for the Glennville Sentinel newspaper, shared this: “As a community, we’re very honored to have the cemetery here.”
The cemetery is about 25 miles west of the main post of Fort Stewart, Georgia, which commanded my attention as I traveled north from Glennville to Beaufort. As literally miles of federal fence disappeared in the rearview mirror, I began wondering in earnest about its size. I later learned Fort Stewart is the largest military installation east of the Mississippi River, encompassing nearly 280,000 acres and parts of five Georgia counties.
According to its homepage over 3,000 soldiers from the Fort are currently deployed, reminding us of our indebtedness to those Americans who stand watch worldwide while we go about our daily routines. It’s a privilege to care for them and their families when they come home.
Ron Walters is VA’s Acting Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs and Chief Financial Officer of the National Cemetery Administration. This is the fourth in his ten-part series exploring Veterans cemeteries in the southeastern U.S. Next: Beaufort National Cemetery: From Glory to the Great Santini.