AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - A group of people are pushing to make Augusta the location for Georgia’s third state-operated veteran cemetery. Now they’re working to contact legislators and local leaders for this regional effort.
Commissioners unanimously voted on a motion to draft a resolution supporting it Tuesday in their committee meeting. A local veterans resource organization, Forces United, is poised to take the lead.
Former Mayor Bob Young laid out potential steps they’d need to take. He said if all goes well the process should take about five years.
“It’s up to us to convince the state that there is a need for the state to go to the VA to get a grant to build a state veterans cemetery in Augusta," said Young.
Young said there are a lot of moving parts, which include bringing the issue to Commissioner of Veterans Service Mike Roby so he can take it to the legislature for consideration. The state would apply to the VA for a grant to fund the cemetery. If approved, funds to construct a cemetery on property the state furnishes (ideally 60 acres or more) would be granted (example: Gracewood).
Young said the upkeep would be the responsibility of the state, so the grounds would look “just like Arlington Cemetery”. He said it’s a “win win” for the city, as it’s a means of economic development, too. The cemetery would provide jobs, would be a tourist destination and a gathering place for ceremonies, he added.
Several members of the Patriot Guard joined Forces United Deputy Director Don Clark for the presentation to commissioners. He said the closest burial grounds for veterans in Georgia are in Milledgeville and Glennville or in Columbia, South Carolina.
“Regionally we have about 66,000 [veterans]. specifically for Richmond County we have about 22,000 and about 16,000 in Columbia [County]. So those numbers are pretty significant," Clark said.
Leaders say they hope it won’t take another 20 years for this discussion to bear fruit. They will vote on the motion to draft a resolution/letter of support and to make Forces United the lead at the full commission meeting next Tuesday.