New national cemetery dedicated

The new veterans cemetery was dedicated Sunday with complete military fanfare.

The Alabama National Cemetery will soon serve as a final place for thousands of local veterans.

“This cemetery will give veterans the opportunity to be buried with honor and dignity in a national shrine,” said Quincy Whitehead, cemetery director. “Today is a new milestone in the service to veterans in Alabama.”

William F. Tuerk gave the keynote address. He is the Department of Veteran’s Affairs undersecretary for memorial affairs.

Tuerk talked about caring for the country’s men and women in uniform — both past and present.

“Wars begin and end, but caring for the nation’s warriors is a perpetual obligation,” Tuerk said. “It is a promise that’s being kept today.”

During the ceremony Sunday, officials unveiled a dedication plaque. Full military honors followed, including a rifle salute and the playing of “Taps.”

The cemetery will be built next door to the American Village on Alabama 119.

The first burials are planned for late 2008. The site’s 480 acres should provide enough land for burials for at least 40 years.

Construction started back in January on an initial 45 acres. When finished, the first phase will house 7,400 gravesites, 999 in-ground cremation sites and a 2,700-unit columbarium.

Plans also call for a public information center and administration office. The cemetery will also feature electronic gravesite locators and a memorial walkway.

American Village Director Tom Walker said he looks forward to working with his new neighbor.

“We teach young people the cost of liberty,” said Walker. “Soon students won’t have to go far to see that first hand.”