Monday, July 6, 2009

VA Secretary Announces Opening Alabama National Cemetery

WASHINGTON (July 6, 2009) - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
officially opened its 129th national cemetery June 25 with the first
burials at Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo.

"With the opening of this new national shrine, many thousands of Alabama
Veterans and their families will have a no-cost burial option nearby, in
a setting that is worthy of their service," said Secretary of Veterans
Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "Providing lasting tributes to their sacrifice
is one of VA's most honorable missions, one we are proud to fulfill."

The new 479-acre national cemetery in the Birmingham area will serve
Veterans' needs for at least the next 50 years. The cemetery is located
on State Highway 119, 15 miles south of Birmingham, just north of the
town of Montevallo and west of Interstate Highway 65.

In October 2008, VA awarded a construction contract for $3.7 million to
BSI Contracting Inc., a service-disabled, Veteran-owned small business
in Birmingham, to develop a small burial area. That 12.7-acre section,
with 1,095 casket gravesites and nearly 1,000 in-ground cremation sites,
will provide approximately two years of burials, enabling VA to begin
providing services while the remainder of the cemetery's larger first
phase of development is completed.

When complete, the first phase will consist of approximately 45
developed acres with more than 6,000 additional gravesites and 2,700
columbarium niches, as well as facilities needed to operate and to
provide burials for approximately 10 years. The new cemetery will
include an administration and public information center complex,
including an electronic gravesite locator and public restrooms, a
maintenance building, an entrance area, a flag assembly area, a memorial
walkway and two committal shelters for funeral services. Other
infrastructure elements include roadways, landscaping, utilities and

The new cemetery serves approximately 200,000 veterans in the region and
will be the third national cemetery in Alabama. The state's other
national cemeteries are in Seale and Mobile.

Veterans with a discharge issued under conditions other than
dishonorable, their spouses and eligible dependent children can be
buried in a VA national cemetery. Other burial benefits available for
all eligible veterans, regardless whether they are buried in a national
cemetery or a private cemetery, include a burial flag, a Presidential
Memorial Certificate and a government headstone or marker. Families of
eligible decedents may also order a memorial headstone or marker when
remains are not available for interment.

In the midst of the largest expansion since the Civil War, VA operates
130 national cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico and 33 soldiers'
lots and monument sites. More than three million Americans, including
veterans of every war and conflict, are buried in VA's national
cemeteries on nearly 18,000 acres of land.

Information on VA burial benefits can be obtained from national cemetery
offices, from the Internet at or by calling VA
regional offices toll-free at (800) 827-1000.

For information on the Alabama National Cemetery, call the cemetery
office at (205) 665-9039. To make burial arrangements at the time of
need, call the national cemetery scheduling office at (800) 535-1117.

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