Veteran Cemetery welcomed|Column

Published 3:31 pm Tuesday, May 26, 2009

By Staff
Jo Bonner
Last week, in the shadow of Memorial Day weekend, Governor Bob Riley signed legislation establishing a state veterans’ cemetery in Spanish Fort, Alabama, a site commonly known as Saluda Hill.
The wait for this cemetery has been a long time coming.  My predecessor, Congressman Sonny Callahan, and I worked closely with local veterans’ groups in Mobile and Baldwin Counties, as well as other counties in southwest Alabama to expand the current national cemetery in Mobile.
The Mobile Cemetery, as many of you know, has been closed to active burials since the 1960s.  The only exception is for those killed in combat duty – such as Iraq or Afghanistan.
The other veterans’ cemetery in Alabama is at Fort Mitchell in Seale which is about 250 miles away.  A third cemetery is under construction in Montevallo, but that is about 233 miles from Mobile.
This is a growing problem because south Alabama veterans who want to be buried in a veterans’ cemetery are forced to choose between Barrancas National Cemetery in Pensacola, Florida, and Biloxi National Cemetery in Biloxi, Mississippi, the two closest veterans’ cemeteries.
When Congressman Callahan left office, I picked up the mantle and was successful in acquiring additional funding for a national cemetery. 
We looked at expanding the Mobile Cemetery at its present location. Unfortu-nately, the cemetery is landlocked, and studies showed that nearby property was a potters’ cemetery from during the Civil War.  Another piece of property was a place where horses had once been buried. 
Unfortunately, there was not an adequate place adjacent to the national cemetery for expansion.
To that end, in August 2006, I hosted a meeting with officials from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Memorial Affairs along with local veterans to discuss future options for this much needed cemetery.
This meeting confirmed what we had believed all along – the Spanish Fort property in question was an acceptable site for a veterans’ cemetery and that a state cemetery would be the best option to make this dream become reality.
The Baldwin County Commission, along with local officials, Dr. Barry Booth and other veterans in southwest Alabama, moved forward to ensure this property near Historic Blakely State Park in Spanish Fort would serve as a final resting place for our veterans, and as you can see, they were successful.
This will truly be a first-class cemetery at a premier location to honor our men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice and who have served their country by giving their all.
Jo Bonner serves as a member of the house of representatives. He can be contact at his Web site at