Hundreds attend National Cemetery dedication in Scottsmoor
The ceremony featured a presentation of the colors by the Patrick Air Force Base Color Guard and a salute to veterans in attendance with a medley of service songs performed by the 13th Army band. The event culminated with the unveiling of the cemetery’s plaque, a rifle salute and “Taps.” Photos by Mike Gaffey
Ringed by flag-waving veterans, hundreds of people gathered under a white tent in Scottsmoor on Nov. 20 for the dedication of Cape Canaveral National Cemetery.
The nation’s 134th national cemetery and the ninth in Florida, the 318-acre cemetery at 5525 N. U.S. 1 in north Brevard County eventually will be the final resting place for more than 163,000 veterans and their spouses in the Space Coast region in the next 100 years.
“Here, we establish another glade of America’s most hallowed ground to pay homage to men and women who so valued America that they placed their lives at risk in the defense of generations yet to come,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald, one of several dignitaries in attendance.
“Here, we show our loyalty to the ideals they fought and died for. Here, we show we will never forget the sacrifices they made for us. And here, generations of families will visit and remember their loved ones.”
Cemetery director Don Murphy said the facility’s first phase of construction should be completed in summer 2017 and will provide for about 17,000 gravesites and accommodate casket and cremain internments. But initial burials should begin soon after work at the cemetery’s entrance gate is completed in mid-December, Murphy said.
Other features will include 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.
“We will stand vigilant over the graves of our nation’s heroes and care for these grounds with the highest standards,” Murphy said.
U.S. Rep. Bill Posey (R-Rockledge) said it was an honor for Brevard County to be selected as the home of the nation’s newest national cemetery.
“Cape Canaveral National Cemetery is a historic tribute to the courage and service of the veterans of Central Florida,” said Posey, who was joined by fellow Republican congressmen John Mica and Jeff Miller. “Each of you in attendance today demonstrate the profound significance this has for the state of Florida, our veterans, their families and their loved ones.”
The ceremony featured a presentation of the colors by the Patrick Air Force Base Color Guard and a salute to veterans in attendance with a medley of service songs performed by the 13th Army band. The event culminated with the unveiling of the cemetery’s plaque, a rifle salute and “Taps.”
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 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.
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.
Garren Cone, president of nonprofit AVET Project, Inc., called the cemetery “a blessing.”
“They’ve needed this for a long time,” said Cone, whose local organization helps current troops, retired veterans and their families. “At the AVET Project information table, I must have had at least four spouses come up and say they were holding the cremains of their late husbands because they wanted to make sure they could get them in Cape Canaveral National Cemetery.
“The demand is going to be huge, particularly based on the fact that we have 70,000-plus veterans here and a lot of them are aging.”
For more information, call VA regional offices toll free at 800-827-1000 or go to cem.va.gov. To make burial arrangements at any VA national cemetery at the time of need, call the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 800-535-1117.