Bipartisan legislation introduced by Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., to restore the Clark Veterans Cemetery, which is the final resting place in the Philippines for more than 8,300 U.S. service members and their dependents, was signed into law Thursday by President Barack Obama.
Following a volcanic eruption in 1991, the U.S. abandoned Clark Air Force Base, leaving the cemetery covered in ash and overgrown by weeds. Ayotte's legislation, which was cosponsored by Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, will require the cemetery to be restored and maintained.
"Clark Veterans Cemetery is sacred ground, and the brave Americans who are buried there deserve a dignified and well-maintained final resting place," said Ayotte, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "I'm so pleased that President Obama signed this bill into law, which will ensure that our country keeps its promise to forever honor these heroes."
Since 1994, volunteers in the Philippines have attempted to maintain the cemetery without assistance from the U.S. government. In April, Senators Ayotte and Begich introduced The Remembering America's Forgotten Veterans Cemetery Act (S. 2320), which had 15 bipartisan cosponsors and requires the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) to restore, operate, and maintain Clark Veterans Cemetery to honor the courageous Americans buried there.
The ABMC is an independent agency of the U.S. government responsible for managing overseas cemeteries and monuments. Because Clark Veterans Cemetery is a permanent American cemetery in a foreign country, ABMC is the appropriate federal agency to oversee the cemetery's management and maintenance. In addition to cemeteries and monuments in Europe, the ABMC also maintains Mexico City National Cemetery in Mexico and Corozal American Cemetery in Panama, both of which are similar to the Clark Veterans Cemetery.
The Ayotte-Begich legislation was endorsed by The Military Coalition, The National Military Veterans Alliance, and the Military Officers Association of America.