Rain delays burials at veteran national cemetery

Published 4:56 pm Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Spring showers and muddy conditions have delayed the first phase of construction of the Alabama National Cemetery, said Director Quincy Whitehead.

Burials at the 479-acre site were set to begin this month. They have now been postponed to June.

“The contractors have been working on Saturdays and Sundays, weather permitting, for a couple of months now,” Whitehead said. “We’re probably not going to open until the latter part of June.”

Whitehead said Phase 1A of the project, which includes space for 1,000 casket burials and 1,000 cremation sites, temporary buildings, utilities, road construction and landscaping, is slated for completion June 5. The cemetery will undergo a final inspection at that time. Whitehead said U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs officials in Washington, D.C. will decide on an opening date.

Phase 1B of the project, which includes the construction of permanent administration and maintenance buildings, a columbarium, two committal shelters, public restrooms and an electronic gravesite locator, is set to begin this fall, Whitehead said.

When finished, the cemetery will serve approximately 200,000 veterans over the next 50 years. Clergy of varying faiths performed consecration rites at the cemetery last month.

A Memorial Day ceremony is set for 9 a.m. at the cemetery, which is located off Highway 119. Whitehead said the ceremony is open to the public.

The ceremony precedes the fifth-annual Blue Star Salute at The American Village at 10:30 a.m. Admission for the all-day event is free for veterans, uniformed military personnel and children under age 5. All other admission is $5.

The event features a Patrick Henry oration, a high school art exhibition, Revolutionary War artillery demonstrations, musket demonstrations, military equipment displays, American Legion and Patriot Guard riders, Rosie the Riveter, Buffalo Soldiers and the Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge.

For more information, call 672-2887.