Kentucky Expanding Veteran Cemeteries To Meet Need

Jun 3, 2012

LOUISVILLE, Ky.  -- Kentucky officials are moving toward meeting the increasing demand for veteran cemeteries.

The Courier-Journal reports that four state veteran cemeteries have been built across Kentucky and a fifth one is being planned in Leslie County to meet the need arising mostly from the deaths of World War II veterans. The cemeteries frequently also serve veterans from Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The quiet expansion of veteran cemeteries in recent years has allowed many soldiers, such as Staff Sgt. Mecolus McDaniel of Louisville, to be buried next to others who served in the military, but also close to family and loved ones.

Sonja McDaniel chose to have her husband laid to rest at the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery Central in Radcliff, which is about 33 miles from home.

"It was important to have him buried there; he'd spent more than 15 years in the military," she said.

The first state veterans cemetery opened in 2004 in Hopkinsville and when the cemetery in Leslie County opens, Kentucky will be close to meeting a national goal to have a such cemeteries within 75 miles of 90 percent of veterans.

The cemeteries stay busy, especially Central cemetery in Radcliff, which opened in 2007.

Director Chuck Heater says burials are conducted at the site every day. The cemetery, which has interred 2,280 veterans, has room for about 6,100. However, it has more than 7,000 living veterans preregistered for burial there, which means a likely expansion before one that is planned in 2017.

He says the cemetery has seen a "dramatic increase from what we expected."

"This is going to be a huge cemetery," he said. "But it means a lot of veterans can find a resting place next to their brothers."

Marylin Ardisson, an organizer with Kentucky Patriots, a group that attends veteran burials to show support, said it is more important than most people realize for members of the military to have a cemetery nearby.

"The culture of military life is such that you're brothers and sisters in arms, and this way they have an opportunity to rest in peace alongside them," she said, adding that proximity is key. "There's one guy, he's a 92-year-old World War II veteran, he comes every day to talk to his wife, who passed away before him."