Posted: Jun 13, 2012 8:01 AM by Amanda Venegas - Q2 News
Updated: Jun 13, 2012 8:01 AM
LAUREL - Since 2008, the Yellowstone County Veterans Cemetery in Laurel has served as a symbol of patriotism, honoring our military members' service in life and death. Now the grounds are closer to becoming Montana's only nationally recognized cemetery.
"It's something that the veterans in this county and across the state of Montana have been asking for for a long time," said Yellowstone County Commissioner Bill Kennedy about the desire to get a nationally recognized cemetery in Montana.
Just last week, the Yellowstone County Commission got a letter from the VA stating it wanted to move forward on acquiring the cemetery. The change has also been placed in the VA's 2013 budget.
With one of the highest veteran populations in the country, the state has three active state cemeteries: the Western Montana State Veterans Cemetery in Missoula, Eastern Montana State Veterans Cemetery in Miles City, and Fort Harrison. However, none of those cemeteries are nationally recognized or funded.
Local and state officials have worked for years to make the national status a reality, even bringing top VA officials to Montana. One of the key challenges has been the VA's criteria that national cemeteries are placed in densely populated areas, something not possible in rural Montana.
For now, things are moving ahead and Yellowstone County Commissioner Bill Kennedy says leaders are hopeful.
"Right now we're on the verge of having a national cemetery and starting the planning of working with the feds. This will be the same status as Arlington Cemetery and the other national cemeteries across the country," Kennedy said.
He says no matter how much work local and state leaders will have to put in, it's the least they can do for those who have fought so hard for our country,,
"This is a huge honor. This is a honor for our veterans that have served us and were willing to put their lives on the line for us to have freedom in this country," Kennedy said.
The Yellowstone County Veterans Cemetery in Laurel could become a nationally recognized cemetery within the year. Officials hopes that recognition will honor those service members and their spouses who are buried at the cemetery and serve as a memorial for years to come.