After hundreds gathered to commemorate Memorial Day at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery in Boise, cemetery officials continued planning for an expansion to add more final resting places that could begin within the next year.
The Idaho Division of Veterans Services is receiving a $5 million federal grant to expand the cemetery, which should add thousands of new burial plots and spaces on columbarium walls for cremated remains. The cemetery opened in 2004 and has hosted six Memorial Day ceremonies.
The expansions should prevent the veterans’ cemetery from running out of space. “I don’t want us to put up any 'no vacancy' signs,” said retired Col. David Brasuell, the head of the Idaho Division of Veterans Services. “We have a plan now to make sure that’s not going to happen.” Current projections show the cemetery's in-ground burial spaces would be filled by 2016, and the columbarium walls would run out of room in 2015. The expansion is still in the design stages and would double the size of the cemetery’s space for fallen veterans.
The cemetery still needs federal approval before it can begin expanding. “We’re hopeful for spring of 2011 for when it will start, but it could be as soon as this fall,” said cemetery director Zach Rodriguez. He said once ground is broken, the work could be completed quickly. “I’m very hopeful that they can have it done in six to seven months, but until we start the process, we don’t really know for sure.”
Brasuell led the Memorial Day ceremonies at the cemetery, which included a speech by Gov. Butch Otter, a flyover by members of the Mountain Home Air Force Base, and cannon and rifle salutes.
The governor quoted President George Washington and British philosopher John Stuart Mill about the value of freedom and the duty to protect it. “We find ourselves today to thank those who took up the arms, who dropped their hoes in the fields, who left their tractors standing idle, who left the classroom, who left their families in order to bestow and defend those freedoms,” Otter said.
Brasuell said he was happy with the turnout for the event, despite cloudy skies and light rain. “I think the ceremonies went very well, despite the dampness of the day,” he told IdahoReporter.com. “This is the first wet one that we’ve had, so we’ve been blessed.”
The columbarium, for veterans whose remains are cremated, will also be expanded
Idaho veterans present one of several wreaths at the Memorial Day ceremony