November 9, 2006
Contact: Terry Winschel, Park Historian
By Sam Knowlton
[11/6/06] A new cemetery for Mississippi veterans will be in Mississippi, but won't be in Vicksburg.
The Mississippi State Veterans Affairs Board is taking offers for about 75 acres until Dec. 15.
The location of the cemetery will be limited by a federal Department of Veterans Affairs requirement that says a new cemetery can be no closer than 75 miles to the nearest open national cemetery.
Such cemeteries are in Biloxi, Natchez, Corinth and Memphis and a 75-mile radius around the Natchez cemetery encompasses all but the northeastern edge of Warren County, meaning the proposed cemetery could not be in Vicksburg.
The Vicksburg National Military Park has a federal military cemetery with veterans from the Civil War and all wars until Vietnam. Only a few grave spaces remain - and they are reserved.
The 75-mile rule leaves available mostly the central part of the state. The western part of that area is Delta farmland, leaving the most available space between about Calhoun, Chickasaw and Monroe counties to the north and Marion, Covington, Jones and Wayne counties to the south.
“The land must be suitable for cemetery purposes,” a release from the state veterans affairs board says. “It must have good highway access, be within 75 miles of large concentrations of Mississippi veterans and meet VA requirements.”
The VA has funds for the project.
“The VA can award state veterans cemetery grants, which pay 100 percent of the cost of constructing and equipping a cemetery if the state provides land which meets VA requirements,” the release says. “VA indicates they would set aside an estimated $7 million in federal grant funds for a Mississippi cemetery.”
The cemetery must be large enough to provide sufficient gravesites for at least 20 years, a site-selection standard of the National Cemetery Administration says. Other standards:
• Avoid nearby manmade features such as factories, roads, pipelines, extensive wetlands, shallow rock, unstable earth and impact on endangered species.
• Have topography ranging in slope from two to 15 percent, with road grades no greater than 10 percent.
• Have reasonable access to utilities including drinking water, storm and sanitary sewer and electricity.
• Be located as close as possible to the veteran population center to be served with minimal overlap of areas served by existing veterans cemeteries. Primary consideration should be given to the highway network that would serve the site; the grant cannot fund access roads.
• Preferably have natural, undisturbed or rural views.
Veterans Day activities are scheduled for Saturday in downtown Vicksburg, beginning with an 11 a.m. ceremony and continuing with a 2 p.m. parade.
The ceremony is set for the Municipal Rose Garden on Monroe Street with Col. Benny Terrell as master of ceremonies and Vicksburg National Military Park historian Terry Winched as the speaker. Members of the Vicksburg High School marching band and ROTC are among others scheduled to participate in the event.
The parade is to travel through downtown on Washington Street from Belmont Street to Jackson Street.
The parade theme is Veterans are the Foundation of Our Nation.
Veterans Day is celebrated on the anniversary of the truce that ended World War I, Nov. 11, 1918.