New cemetery honors Brevard veterans
Construction of the new Cape Canaveral National Cemetery in Scottsmoor is scheduled to start this fall, and military veterans’ burials could begin as early as next summer, according to the cemetery’s new director.
Don Murphy said the next major step for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is to award a construction contract for the 318-acre cemetery at 5525 N. U.S. 1, about 12 miles north of Titusville and about two miles south of Interstate 95’s Exit 231. The cemetery will serve the burial needs of more than 163,000 veterans within a 75-mile radius for the next century.
“Everything currently is proceeding on schedule,” said Murphy, who was named deputy director for the National Cemetery Administration’s Memorial Programs Service in April. Staff is looking for temporary space for a local office during cemetery construction, he added.
No date has been set for a groundbreaking, Murphy said.
"I think it's majestic. I think it's long overdue."
— Jim Rufino president of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1096
The first phase of construction, expected to take up to 2 ½ years to complete, will provide about 17,000 gravesites and accommodate both caskets and cremation urns, Murphy said. Other features will include a front entrance on U.S. 1, a public information center with an electronic gravesite locator and restrooms, an administration building, a maintenance building, an open assembly area with flag poles, a memorial wall and walkway, and committal shelters for interment away from the gravesite. Infrastructure features will include roads, landscaping, utilities and irrigation.
Burials are expected to begin nine to 12 months after construction starts.
“We’re still looking forward to conducting the first burials hopefully as early as next summer,” Murphy said.
The VA, in the midst of the largest cemetery expansion since the Civil War, purchased the Scottsmoor property, formerly known as Acosta Groves, in July 2012 for $2.1 million. The VA also bought a 250-acre parcel in Leon County for the new Tallahassee National Cemetery.
Scottsmoor was chosen as the cemetery site because the NCA was able to find land that fit the needs and specifications for a national cemetery within the established radius for a new cemetery, based on a re-evaluation of the Florida veteran population and a desire to have a burial option within a 75-mile radius of 95 percent of the veteran population. Similar re-evaluations of veteran populations resulted in the Tallahassee locations as well as new ones planned for western New York, Colorado and Nebraska.
“The location for Cape Canaveral National Cemetery is also ideal because it’s located between Daytona Beach and the Titusville/Space Coast areas, helping us to reach a larger population of veterans,” Murphy said.
The closest national cemetery to Brevard is in Bushnell, about 120 miles away.
Burial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces and veterans who have met minimum active duty service requirements and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. Their spouse, widow or widower, minor children, and, under certain conditions, unmarried adult children with disabilities, may also be eligible for burial.
Eligible spouses and children may be buried even if they predecease the veteran. Members of the reserve components of the armed forces who die while on active duty or who die while on training duty, or were eligible for retirement pay, may also be eligible for burial.
Burial in a VA national cemetery is a benefit. The VA provides the gravesite, opening and closing of the grave, government headstone or marker, a U.S. burial flag, a Presidential Memorial Certificate and perpetual care of the gravesite.
Murphy, who will move from Washington, D.C. to Brevard later this year, visited Titusville a few months ago for a veterans appreciation event. “It was good opportunity to meet with the veterans who attended that event and members of the local community,” he said.
Jim Rufino, president of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1096 in Suntree/Viera, is thrilled that a national cemetery will be built in Brevard, home to about 80,000 veterans.
“I think it’s majestic,” he said. “I think it’s long overdue.”
For more information on Cape Canaveral National Cemetery, call 202-632-8035 or visit cem.va.com.