Mass. Plans New Veteran Cemeteries
BOSTON (AP) _ Being buried with his brothers in arms is of the utmost importance to World War II veteran Clarence Cormier.
``I want to be with my buddies,″ said Cormier, 76, who was a platoon sergeant with the 106th Infantry Division at the Battle of the Bulge and served time in a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp.
``They are all part of me, no matter where they were. We were all part of the same thing. We were all struggling for freedom,″ he said.
In response to a dire shortage of burial space for veterans like Cormier, the federal government has provided money for dozens of new state veterans’ cemeteries, including two in Massachusetts _ in Agawam and Winchendon.
There are 25 million veterans in the nation, including 536,000 in Massachusetts, said Steve Westerfeld, a spokesman for the federal Veterans Affairs Department.
They are dying at a rate of 1,500 a day nationwide. Last year, 550,000 veterans died. Based on the 1990 census, annual veteran deaths are expected to peak at 620,000 in 2008 as the World War II generation ages, Westerfeld said.
``That’s why right now, it is so imperative to get these built,″ said Robert C. McKean of the state Veterans’ Services Department.
Officials approved the $7 million project in Winchendon last month and it is expected to open in May 2002. The $7 million, 61-acre Agawam cemetery is expected to be completed in March.
The new cemeteries will be able to accommodate at least 40,000 people each and take care of the burial needs of the state’s veterans for about 30 years, McKean said.
Both cemeteries are being built with federal money but will be managed by the state. They will be open only to veterans from Massachusetts, their spouses and dependents. The only other veterans’ cemetery in the state _ in Bourne, on Cape Cod _ is a national cemetery and is open to all veterans.
The new facilities will give each geographic region of the state a burial site. The locations are consistent with the federal Veteran Affairs Department’s goal of building a cemetery within 75 miles of every veteran in the nation, said William Jayne, director of the state cemetery grants service.
``This will be easier on families,″ McKean said.
On the Net:
Federal Veterans Affairs Department at http://www.cem.va.gov
State Veterans Services Department at http://www.magnet.state.ma.us/veterans/cemetery.htm