The federal Veterans Affairs State Cemetery Grants Program presented the state of Washington with a check for $8,794,766 last week to build the Eastern Washington State Veterans Cemetery in Medical Lake.
The cemetery is scheduled to open on Memorial Day next year and construction has already begun. Ground was broken on Memorial Day 2009.
Elected officials, veterans, active members of the military, first gentleman Mike Gregoire, state Department of Veterans Affairs Director John Lee and many others were on hand Sept. 2 to watch Frank Salvas, director of state cemetery grants of the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, present the check.
“The final resting place is a place of honor and distinction,” Salvas told the crowd gathered at the Spokane Regional Business Center.
An estimated 140,000 veterans from a 75-mile radius will be eligible to be buried at the cemetery, located at Espanola and Ritchey roads just west of Medical Lake. It is the first state veterans’ cemetery in Washington. The Tahoma National Cemetery is located in Kent, Wash.
The cemetery will provide a concrete liner, a committal shelter for the service and a memorial stone. The service members’ family won’t have to pay burial fees.
Rich Cesler, the director of the cemetery, made a brief presentation of what will be included when it opens.
Cesler said that the retired chiefs of Fairchild Air Force Base made the project’s first donation – $1,800, which went to the sign that now stands at the site.
The cemetery will include burial sites for in-ground cremains, a scattering garden, a memorial path, 2,000 pre-placed crypts and a committal shelter.
The governance committee of the cemetery, led by its chair Neal Sealock, was presented certificates of appreciation at the ceremony.
The group has been meeting to discuss standards, such as whether headstones should be upright or lay flat. They also have been working on fundraising and encouraging veterans to buy the special veterans’ license plate, which will help pay for the cemetery.
“The facility will truly represent what the state of Washington wants,” Salvas said.