U.S. Rep. John Salazar (CO-3), who sits on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, has introduced legislation to create a new national cemetery serving Southern Colorado.
Currently, the state has Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver and the Fort Lyon National Cemetery near Las Animas.
"This is fair legislation that would give military families located in rural parts of the state a cemetery that is closer to home," Rep. Salazar said. "It is a fitting tribute to those veterans who have served our nation with honor."
Compared to other proposals, Salazar's H.R. 1660 follows the Veterans Administration's guidelines in requiring that a national cemetery be built 75 miles away from an existing national cemetery and serve 170,000 veterans.
By including 29 counties across the southern part of the state, this bill increases the number of veterans served and gives the administration more options in choosing a site for the new cemetery.
The counties designated in the legislation are El Paso, Pueblo, Teller, Fremont, Las Animas, Huerfano, Custer, Costilla, Alamosa, Saguache, Conejos, Mineral, Archuleta, Hinsdale, Gunnison, Pitkin, La Plata, Montezuma, San Juan, Ouray, San Miguel, Dolores, Montrose, Delta, Mesa, Crowley, Kiowa, Bent, Baca.
Salazar, the only military veteran in the Colorado delegation, has met with veterans from across the state to build support for this legislation. Several of the organizations that have endorsed this bill include the Colorado chapters of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Association for Service Disabled Veterans.
"The Department of Colorado Veterans of Foreign Wars fully supports the proposed bill to establish a national cemetery in Southern Colorado. With the Fort Logan National Cemetery rapidly approaching capacity, the veterans of Colorado urgently need the construction of this facility to satisfy the needs of our heroes from all wars: WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, Iraq and others. The establishment of a National Cemetery in Southern Colorado is one of our highest priorities. We would like to thank Congressman Salazar for his efforts on our behalf," said Steve Rylant, Jr. Vice Commander from the Department of Colorado Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Supportive letters from the American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Military Order of Purple Heart, and the Veteran Affairs Physician Assistant Association are attached.
Statements from other veterans organizations are below:
1. Colorado State Veterans Center Homelake, Administrator Mindy Montague:
"One of the benefits of having a veterans cemetery in Southern Colorado is that family members would be able to place their loved ones in a close proximity instead of traveling further distances, this is the main reason for our support. I am also concerned about the increased number of military retirees in Southern Colorado and especially in Colorado Springs, there is a growing need for this cemetery."
2. Department of Colorado Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., Jr. Past State Commander Darrell Anderson:
"There are 30 counties represented in this area. The families of those veterans deserve a place, within close proximity, where they can go to pay their respects. The Southern area of Colorado is losing, on a daily basis because of deployment of our troops as well as the death of retired veterans who live in the Southern part of the state, a resting place of their own in that Fort Logan is becoming filled. Colorado has four distinct areas. The proposed Southern Colorado site will serve the Southwest segment of the state - a need to be recognized. Thank you for your work on behalf of Colorado Veterans."