Michigan could see its first state veterans cemetery under a Senate bill

Efforts are currently underway in the State Senate to establish the first state-run veterans cemetery in Michigan.

Michigan currently has two National Veterans Cemeteries located on the southern portion of the Lower Peninsula, one at Fort Custer National Cemetery in Augusta and the other at Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly.

Senate Bill 971 proposes the creation of a state veterans cemetery in northern Michigan, which the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Curtis VanderWall, R-Ludington, says will create better opportunities for veterans of the Michigan and their families.

“As our population ages and we see more and more veterans die, they should have the opportunity to have their final resting place close to their families while allowing them to be honored for their service by the internment in a veterans cemetery,” VanderWall said during a June 23 Senate Appropriations Committee meeting.

There are 532,394 veterans in Michigan, according to the latest data of the United States Census Bureau.

The bill, also known as the “Veterans Cemetery Act,” would create a veterans cemetery fund in the state treasury, authorize the Michigan Department of Military Affairs and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) to acquire suitable land for the cemetery in a county with a population of at least 12,500 and no more than 13,000, and also gives the Michigan DMVA administrative powers over the cemetery.

Although the exact cost of such a project is unknown, according to the Senate’s financial analysis of the bill, the annual costs are estimated at around $1 million. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has grant funds that states can use to establish and operate state cemeteries for veterans.

Carey Jansen, Crawford County Commissioner in the northern Lower Peninsula, oversees a citizen-led task force working to bring the state’s Veterans Cemetery to Crawford County.

At the June 23 Senate Appropriations Committee meeting, Jansen cited several reasons why the county would be the best candidate for an in-state veterans cemetery, among them its accessibility for residents of the Lower Peninsula of the State. north and the area National Guard installation, Camp Grayling.

“We have the infrastructure to support that, we don’t have to start from scratch,” Johnson said. “Northern Michigan needs a state-run veterans cemetery.”

The bill was referred to the Senate Committee of the Whole. It would have to be passed by both houses of the legislature and signed by the governor to become law.

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Norman D. Briggs