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VFW supports extension efforts

By By Lee “Lavan” Martin
At its last VFW meeting, members present voted unanimously to support the South Alabama Veterans Council in its efforts to extend the Mobile National Cemetery to South Baldwin County.
The South Alabama Veterans Council was formed several years ago for the sole purpose of assisting veteran organizations with efforts to better support veterans regardless of which veteran organization one belonged or which civic of veteran activity one supported. One of its current, primary objectives is the establishment of a Mobile National Cemetery Annex in South Baldwin County.
Most honorably discharged veterans from active military duty know their entitlement to interment in a national cemetery, that in most cases include their spouses. The question is, will space be available in the national cemetery of their choice?
The Mobile National Cemetery (Magnolia Gardens) is full with no interments there since 1961. The closest national cemetery to Atmore with space then is the Barrancas National Cemetery in Pensacola, hence the reason the South Alabama Veterans Council is trying to get an annex to the Mobile National Cemetery established in South Baldwin County.
Veterans and community leaders in Baldwin and Mobile Counties have been discussing the expansion of the Mobile National Cemetery for years. While all agree that an expansion is necessary and possible, no decision has been reached on an exact location.
Meanwhile, the Baldwin County Commission recently agreed unanimously to purchase land north of Spanish Fort on Alabama Highway 225 that they hope to use as a national or state cemetery in South Baldwin County. If the site is not used as a national cemetery, perhaps it can be used as a state cemetery for veterans in south Alabama.
While this is a giant step toward reality, there are still huddles that must be overcome. Will the site on Highway 225 be a federal or state veteran cemetery and how will it be financed, or will the VA opt to expand the Mobile National Cemetery into Mobile County?
U.S. Representative Jo Bonner has met with the South Alabama Council and lends his support to the Council's efforts. In fact, the two and one- half million dollars appropriated for the cemetery by former Congressman Sonny Callahan and him will be made available for the cemetery expansion wherever it is located. Since this is not nearly enough to purchase and develop the land or to maintain a cemetery, it is imperative that we get the VA to accept the property purchased by the Baldwin County Commission as a National Cemetery Annex, and to have it administered by the Department of Veteran's Affairs.
Atmore area veterans need to get behind this project and support it financially. They need to let Congressman Bonner and the South Alabama Veterans Council know how they feel. Otherwise, current and future veterans who want to be buried in a national cemetery will have only Fort Mitchell National Cemetery in Seale, Barrancas National Cemetery in Pensacola, or the national cemetery in Biloxi or Natchez, Mississippi as an option.
Send supporting letters, resolutions and contributions to Dr. Barry Lee Booth, D.M.D., Public Relations Committee Chairman, Cemetery, South Alabama Veterans Council Cemetery Committee, P.O. Box 7406, Spanish Fort, Ala. 36577-7406
Lee "Lavan" Martin is commander of the Atmore VFW Post 7016.