Land Sale Agreement Moves Project Forward
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JULY 31, 2014
Representative David Guttenberg (D-Interior/Wade Hampton) today praised news that officials of the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) signed a land sales agreement to dedicate 320 acres near Fairbanks as Alaska’s Interior Veterans Cemetery. A long-time advocate for an Interior cemetery, Rep. Guttenberg sponsored the 2005 bill designating the new facility and directing DMVA to construct it. That measure ultimately led to passage of a similar bill in 2009, sponsored by Senator Charlie Huggins (R-Wasilla), establishing the cemetery and creating the Alaska Veterans Cemetery Fund.
“This is huge progress toward a goal we’ve been pursuing for years,” Guttenberg said. “Families of Interior Alaska veterans deserve a nearby final resting place for their loved ones. It’s important that we honor our military heroes in this way.”
The Legislature appropriated $1 million to leverage $5 million from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for the project. It granted additional funds in 2013 to purchase private land, once it became apparent suitable state land was unavailable in the Interior.
Guttenberg thanked volunteers and DMVA officials for their determined efforts to make the new cemetery a reality. “General Thomas Katkus, DMVA Deputy Commissioner McHugh Pierre, Senator Huggins, and their respective staffs, and especially Alaska veterans and their families have all been unshakeable in pursuit of this new facility,” Guttenberg said. “This has not been an easy road. I’m thankful to all the participants who made this happen, and I look forward to working with them to bring this project to completion.”
Presently, Alaska has two official veterans’ cemeteries, in Sitka and in Anchorage. An Interior cemetery will allow for veterans, including Alaska Territorial Guard members, to be buried with their rightful honors, and allow Interior families easier access to visit memorials.
The new cemetery is designed in accordance with national standards, through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Construction is expected to begin this fall with completion slated for 2015.
“This is terrific news,” Guttenberg said. “Everywhere I go – the grocery store, the post office, the coffee shop – veterans and family members stop me and ask when the new cemetery is coming. “Hurry up,” they all say. I’m happy to say it just got a lot closer.”