/PRNewswire/ -- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) held a dedication ceremony today in San Diego for the Miramar National Cemetery.
"Offering more burial options for Veterans in southern California is a top priority," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "With this cemetery, we are keeping our commitment to provide a final resting place and lasting tribute to the men and women who sacrificed to protect our Nation."
VA's Acting Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs, Steve L. Muro, gave the keynote address and was joined by elected officials as the dedication plaque was unveiled. Military honors included a firing salute and the ceremony ended with the playing of "Taps."
The 313-acre Miramar National Cemetery will include both gravesite and columbarium development, providing a full range of burial alternatives to approximately 235,000 Veterans in the San Diego County area.
The nearby Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery closed to first interment casketed burials in 1966, although it stays active with casketed interments of family members of those already interred and inurnments of cremated remains. Riverside National Cemetery, 90 miles from Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, is currently the nearest national cemetery offering full burial options.
The design contract for $961,004 was awarded to Van Dyke Landscape Architects, a small business firm in San Diego.
The first phase of construction will include approximately 11,500 conventional gravesites; 4,500 in-ground cremation sites; 10,000 columbarium niches; an administration building and maintenance complex; two committal service shelters; and a public assembly area. The project will also include systems for water distribution, roads, utilities, signs and landscaping.
VA chose Kirk Leopard as director of the cemetery. He will continue as the director of Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, a position he has held since 2007. Prior to that appointment, he was director of Baltimore National Cemetery and assistant to the director at Fort Mitchell National Cemetery in Alabama. In June 2006, he completed 12 months of training as a cemetery director intern at VA's National Cemetery Administration training center in St. Louis. Leopard is a 21-year Navy Veteran, having served as a hospital corpsman, medical laboratory technician and medical research technician during his military career.
Veterans with a discharge other than dishonorable, their spouses and dependent children are eligible for burial in a national cemetery. Burials in VA-run national cemeteries are also open to military personnel who die on active duty, their spouses and eligible dependents.
Other burial benefits for eligible Veterans include a burial flag, a Presidential Memorial Certificate and a government headstone or marker - even if the burial is not in a national cemetery.
In the midst of the largest cemetery expansion since the Civil War, VA operates 131 national cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico and 33 soldiers' lots and monument sites. More than 3.4 million Americans, including Veterans of every war and conflict -- from the Revolutionary War to the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- are buried in VA's national cemeteries.
Information on VA burial benefits can be obtained from national cemetery offices, from the Internet at www.cem.va.gov or by calling VA regional offices toll-free at 800-827-1000. Additional information about the Miramar National Cemetery is available by calling the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery at 619-553-2084. To make burial arrangements at the time of need at any VA national cemetery, call the national cemetery scheduling office at 800-535-1117.
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