Bennet, Salazar Laud Inclusion of Language to Establish New Southern Colorado National Veterans Cemetery in President's Budget
U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and Representative John Salazar today celebrated President Obama's inclusion of language in the FY 2011 budget that calls for the establishment of a new national veterans cemetery in southern Colorado. The announcement means that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can now begin planning to acquire land in southern Colorado for a new veterans' cemetery.
Specifically, the budget includes language that reduces the population threshold used to determine where new national veterans cemeteries should be built from 170,000 to 80,000 veterans living within 75 miles of a potential location. This rule change will allow the VA to build a new cemetery in southern Colorado that will serve the region's 100,000 veterans. The VA specifically acknowledged in its budget justification that this new threshold would allow for the creation of a new cemetery in southern Colorado before Fort Logan reaches capacity.
There would also be a need to accommodate 200,000 veterans in the Denver area and northern Colorado with a new cemetery to replace Fort Logan. This announcement represents a major milestone in an effort undertaken by area veterans and military families to build a new, national veterans cemetery to serve the high concentration of service members in the region.
Bennet and Salazar, the lead sponsors of legislation in the House and Senate to create a national veterans cemetery in the region, applauded the decision, which came on the heels of a meeting the lawmakers held with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki on this very subject.
"For years, folks in Southern Colorado have been fighting to create a national veterans cemetery to call their own," said Bennet. "We're extremely grateful to Secretary Shinseki for understanding how important this cemetery is to the people of southern Colorado. But we're even more grateful to our troops, our veterans and our military families for everything they've done on behalf of our country. It's high time we delivered on this promise long overdue, and this definitely represents a step in the right direction."
"Southern Colorado men and women fought for this nation and they deserve a Veterans Cemetery closer to home," said Congressman Salazar. "I am glad that President Obama has recognized this need and has begun the process of creating a Veterans Cemetery in Southern Colorado. This is a project I've fought for since the day I came to Congress so that my fellow Veterans can rest in honor and peace close to the ones they love."
With Fort Logan National Veterans Cemetery estimated to reach full capacity in 2019, and with veterans and military families in Central and Southern Colorado forced to travel long distances to visit friends and loved ones, a new national veterans cemetery in the region would help ease demand for space at existing facilities while significantly reducing the cost and distance of travel for families of fallen soldiers.
The new cemetery would also enable veterans who reside in Southern Colorado to be buried near the communities they call home. The Pikes Peak area has one of the highest concentrations of veterans in the country, and both of the existing cemeteries-between 70 and 80 miles away-are inconveniently located for families traveling from the Pikes Peak region to visit their loved ones. Additionally, treacherous weather conditions and poor highway access often inhibit such travel.
The House bill sponsored by Salazar is cosponsored by Reps. DeGette (CO-01), Lamborn (CO-05), Perlmutter (CO-07), and Polis (CO-02). The Senate bill sponsored by Bennet is co-sponsored by Senator Mark Udall.