New Mexico taxpayers, four strategically placed communities, the Legislature and Gov. Susana Martinez all deserve a salute for finally turning the dirt on new veterans’ cemeteries in the Land of Enchantment.
Four new veterans’ cemeteries, to be exact, in Angel Fire, Carlsbad, Fort Stanton and Gallup. The additions represent areas with the large, underserved veteran populations, and their communities have demonstrated that they are ready to start construction, including having acreage available.
The expansion, which has been discussed since at least 2001, holds twofold importance. Not only are the two existing national cemeteries, in Santa Fe and at Fort Bayard near Silver City, running out of space, but having just two of them in the nation’s fifth-largest state requires veterans and their loved one to travel hours to bury and then visit the remains of their loved ones or forgo a final military honor and opt for a private burial site.
Need and desire should be more than enough, but factor in that the Legislature’s modest $600,000 appropriation can be doubled via a special VA Cemetery Grant, which matches dollar-for-dollar any state contribution.
New Mexico is home to about 170,700 veterans, four military bases and a strong military history. Martinez is correct, that “in a state as large and rural as New Mexico, it is our responsibility to ensure that these resting places are as close to home as possible.”
It took digging in on the part of many New Mexicans to finally get the state to the point where new veterans cemeteries are a reality. By doing so, they have done right by the state’s military heroes.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.