World War II veterans are dying at the rate of more than a thousand a day. About 400 Viet Nam vets are dying each day. Many of them are being buried in veterans cemeteries, which are quickly running out of room.
There are several veterans cemeteries in Missouri, but some of them are full. West Central Congressman Ike Skelton — a long-time advocate for our state’s military installations — recently secured funding for a new cemetery near Fort Leonard Wood.
Missouri’s national cemeteries are in St. Louis and Jefferson City. The one in Jefferson City is full. Director of Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis Jeff Barnes says there’s room at that cemetery until about 2025. There are also national cemeteries at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas and in Mound City in Illinois. Barnes says the one in Mound City has room until well beyond 2050.
He says at the Jefferson Barracks, they did 4,201 interments in 2009.
The new cemetery at Fort Wood occupies 229 acres; 25 acres are developed now, which is expected to last 25 to 30 years before additional development is needed. The cemetery includes an administration building, maintenance facility, a committal shelter for conducting interment services, and a columbarium wall for cremation interment.
For more information about the cemeteries, visit http://www.cem.va.gov/scg/lsvc.asp.
A program that aids families of service men and women bury their loved ones free began in 1996 and is managed by the Missouri Veterans Commission, though similar services have existed for more than 100 years. The 1996 program offers free burial and other services meant to honor deceased veterans.
Currently, the cemeteries can accommodate more than 50,000 plots and still have plenty of room, according to the commission. Those interested in signing up for the program must fill out an application. For more about the program, call (573) 751-3779 or visit www.mvc.dps.mo.gov.
Missouri’s veterans cemetery locations and contacts are:
Stan Baughn, Cemetery Program Director – Missouri Veterans Commission – Jefferson City, Mo., 65102. Phone: (573) 522-4221.
Missouri State Veterans Cemetery in Higginsville: 20109 Bus. Hwy 13, Higginsville, Mo., 64037. Jess Rasmussen, Director. Phone: (660) 584-5252 – Fax: (660) 584-9525.
Missouri Veterans Cemetery in Springfield: 5201 South Southwood Road, Springfield, Mo., 65804. Steve Maples, Director. Phone: (417) 823-3944. Fax: (417) 823-0252.
Missouri State Veterans Cemetery in Bloomfield: 17357 Stars and Stripes Way, Bloomfield, Mo., 63825. Ken Swearengin, Director. Phone: (573) 568-3871. Fax: (573) 568-3421.
Missouri State Veterans Cemetery in Fort Leonard Wood: 25350 Highway H, Waynesville, Mo., 65583. Leah Piland, Director. Phone: (573) 336-4291.
Missouri State Veterans Cemetery in Jacksonville: 1479 County Road 1675, Jacksonville, Mo. 65260. Gerry Hodge, Director. Phone: (660) 295-4237. Fax: (660) 295-4259.
St. James Veterans Home Cemetery: 620 N. Jefferson, St. James, Mo., 65559. Patty Faenger, Administrator. Phone: (573) 265-3271. Fax: (573) 265-5771.
Jessica Machetta reports.