SPOKANE -- The first veterans cemetery in Washington was dedicated on Memorial Day in Medical Lake.
The Washington State Veterans Cemetery was dedicated by the Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA). Hundreds of Washington veterans and their families attended the dedication as well as Governor Chris Gregoire.
First interments are expected to take place beginning June 7 with the initial capacity for 10,700 and ultimate capacity of 70,000.
The 120 acre cemetery features a covered, open-air structure for committal services, a visitor's center, a computer system for locating specific graves or interments, and an assembly area for special occasions, such as Memorial Day observances. The State Veterans Cemetery provides for in-ground casket burial sites and cremation interments, columbarium niches, and a scattering garden for cremation interments.
The 2007 State Legislature approved the Eastern Washington State Veterans Cemetery budget and House Bill 1292, authorizing WDVA to establish the cemetery.
The Federal VA State Cemetery Grant Program provides 100% of the funding needed to build and fully equip veterans cemeteries in areas of the country where veteran populations fall below the threshold for constructing National Veterans Cemeteries. (Washington State is home to one National Cemetery, the Tahoma National Veterans Cemetery in Kent, WA.) When construction is complete, the state assumes responsibility for the Cemetery's ongoing operation and maintenance.
According to federal VA veteran population information, Spokane County is home to 37% of all veterans living in Eastern Washington, or 52,152 veterans. The second area of veteran concentration is Yakima County with a veteran population of 18,536 and third is Benton County with a veteran population of 14,951.