Grant money OK’d for veterans cemetery
JENNINGS — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration has awarded a $7.2 million federal grant for a new Southwest Louisiana Veterans Cemetery in Jennings.
“Today’s announcement isn’t just good news for Jennings, it’s great news for the men and women of Louisiana that served this country,” Jennings Mayor Henry Guinn said. “It is an honor and privilege to be the recipient of this grant and we are eager to begin the construction process.”
The initial phase of the project will be built on a 12.6-acre site just northeast of the Southwest Louisiana Veterans Home off La. 97.
“We are very excited to be selected for one of the locations in the state,” Veterans Home Administrator Matt Duhon said. “There are a lot of benefits we give our veterans now, but this will be another step for their continual care.”
Duhon said the cemetery, which has been in the works for some time, will serve all of Southwest Louisiana from the Texas border to the Atchafalaya Basin up to Leesville.
“Southwest Louisiana will finally see the construction of a veterans cemetery thanks to this grant,” U.S Sen. Bill Cassidy, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said. “Right now, the only option for veterans is the cemetery in Leesville, more than 80 miles away. I’m glad Louisiana families will finally have a place closer to home where we can honor these American heroes.”
‘Today’s announcement isn’t just good news for Jennings, it’s great news for the men and women of Louisiana that served this country.’
Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Joey Strickland said officials are in the process of finalizing the details for the official grounding breaking later this year.
“The Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs has worked closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration, our local elected officials and community partners for the past two years in order to make this fifth and final cemetery a reality for Louisiana’s veterans,” Strickland said. “Today’s official announcement of $7.2 million in federal grant monies being awarded for the establishment of the new Southwest Louisiana Veterans Cemetery is the culmination of a lot of hard work between us and our state and national partners to ensure that we stay true to our mission which is to take care of our veterans.”
State Sen. Dan Morrish said the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs will provide a $1 million match for the project with no monies coming from the capital outlay.
“This is certainly something we have been working on for a long time,” Morrish said.
Morrish said veteran officials have visited the site on numerous occasions and have begun design phases for the project.
“I have seen three different scenarios and I was pleased with them all,” Morrish said, noting the cemetery will be visible from the interstate.
Officials have said work on the cemetery would be completed next year.
Cassidy said the money will be used to build a main entrance, an administration building, a maintenance facility, roads, an assembly area and a committal shelter. The project will also include landscaping, a memorial walkway and supporting infrastructure.
The cemetery will reportedly have 1,212-placed crypts, 185 cremation gravesides and 380 columbarium niches.
The cemetery will provide for the needs of about 37,000 Louisiana veterans and their families.
“Our state and tribal partners are critical in helping the National Cemetery Administration achieve our strategic goal of providing 95 percent of the veteran population with convenient access to a burial option within 75 miles of their home,” VA Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Randy Reeves said. “We will continue to work with and support states like Louisiana to provide grants which reflect the needs, resources and preferences of the local veteran community.”
State veterans cemeteries are also located in Leesville, Keithville, Rayville and Slidell.