National cemetery consecration set April 9

Published 3:28 pm Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A ground blessing for the Alabama National Cemetery, the state’s third veterans’ cemetery in Montevallo, will be held April 9 at 11 a.m.

Cemetery Director Quincy Whitehead said 10 church leaders will deliver consecration rites at the cemetery, which is located off Highway 119 near American Village.

“The purpose of the service is to have as many religious beliefs as possible to say a prayer over the burial areas before we actually conduct the first internments,” Whitehead said.

Church leaders include Ray Dunmyer, St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church; Jim Tuohy, St. Andrews Episcopal Church; Mike Byars, First Baptist Church of Alabaster; Robin Norsworthy, University Baptist Church; Ron Cox, Kingwood Assembly of God Church; Paul W. Sims, First Independent Church; Wendy Hare, Montevallo Presbyterian Church; Lama Deshek, Losel Maitri Tibetan Buddhist Center; Richard Freedman, Jewish Temple Emanu-El; and Jay Isbell, Beth El Shaddai Messianic Synagogue.

The service is expected to last one hour. Retired Master Sergeant and former Shelby County Commissioner Earl Cunningham will serve as master of ceremonies. U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus and Whitehead will offer remarks.

The University of Montevallo Chamber Singers and the 313th Army Band of Hoover will also be on hand at the service.

Whitehead said the first burials are expected in mid-May. The cemetery is now in its first phase of construction. When finished, the 479-acre site will serve approximately 200,000 veterans over the next 50 years.

The cemetery will also feature an administration and public information complex with an electronic gravesite locator and public restrooms, a memorial walkway and two committal shelters for funeral services.

Alabama’s other veterans’ cemeteries are Fort Mitchell National Cemetery in Seale and Mobile National Cemetery.