The Senate gave unanimous approval Wednesday to legislation to create a state veteran’s cemetery in Ardmore. Sen. Frank Simpson and Rep. Pat Ownbey are the authors of Senate Bill 543, which Simpson says will provide more options for veterans.
“This cemetery will help address a shortage of space nationwide for our veterans as well as provide a place close to home for our Oklahoma veterans,” said Simpson, R-Springer. “We’ve been meeting with federal and state officials for the last 18 months about this project and have since also visited with the Ardmore City Council and local citizens, all of whom are pleased to be a part of this important project to ensure our veterans can be laid to rest with dignity and honor.”
This would be the state’s first veteran cemetery operated by the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs. There is currently one state-owned cemetery, which is located in Oklahoma City and operated by the Oklahoma Military Department.
“We want to thank everyone who has helped make this cemetery a reality,” said Ownbey, R-Ardmore. “Our veterans’ service and sacrifices deserve to be forever honored and remembered, and having this final resting place will ensure that happens.”
There are 53 acres of land available at the Ardmore Veterans Center and the cemetery would utilize 23 acres southwest of the center. The project is estimated to cost approximately $9 million. If approved, the Veterans Administration (VA) would cover all of the initial costs of construction as well as provide funds for equipment to operate the facility. The state would have to provide $1 million upfront but would be reimbursed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs before July 1, 2017. The entire site would be required to meet VA standards for design and eligibility of veterans interred at the cemetery. The state would be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the cemetery.
The cemetery will offer 1,600 burial plots per acre for a total of 32,000 plots. It would take nearly 200 years for the cemetery to reach its full capacity.