The Vermont Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Randolph will receive a $5.7-million grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration to fund an expansion and improvements to the site’s infrastructure, Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont, announced Thursday.
“This is a big deal,” Shumlin said. “We’ll make sure we’ll be able to remember and memorialize the sacrifices made by so many Vermonters.”
According to Robert Burke, the director of the Vermont Office of Veterans Affairs, estimates predicted the state-run cemetery would have to start turning away veterans and their spouses by late 2017 or early 2018. That would have been due to the facility approaching a level considered capacity, Burke explained.
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However, the federal grant will fund the addition of more than 1,600 burial plots, including crypts for casket burials, columbarium niches, and space for in-ground cremains burials, Gov. Shumlin said.
The money will also fund a new main entrance, public information center, maintenance area, walkway, landscaping, and a road system, Gov. Shumlin said. The new roads will connect to the chapel on the property and create a second exit from the site.
Currently, visitors are unable to come to the cemetery between December and May; at least, not easily. For much of that time, they would need cross-country skis or snowshoes, because most of the roads on the site are not plowed. That will also change after the upgrades are complete, including the year-round visitors’ center.
“It’ll show the respect and dignity deserving of our service members,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Heston of the Vermont National Guard, describing the location when the project is complete.
For Rep. Larry Cupoli, R-Rutland City, who comes to the Vermont Veterans Memorial Cemetery to visit his childhood friend, Skip Mulcahey, the announcement of the coming upgrades was welcome.
“I can’t think of a better resting place,” Cupoli said. “It’s magnificent here.”
Cupoli praised the work of Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, in securing the federal grant. Cupoli said the announcement marked the end of several years of hard work by many people involved in the project.
Cupoli, who served the country stateside in military intelligence during Vietnam, said he will consider being buried in the cemetery one day.
“There are family factors to think about, of course,” Cupoli told necn. “But it would be great to be buried here; I’m giving it serious consideration.”
Work on the 12-acre development is expected to start next month, Burke said.