Utah is one of only four states without an official place to bury its war veterans. But plans for a new cemetery will change that, according to Kevin C. Scholz.
Scholz, the architect for the new Utah Veterans Memorial Park, said groundbreaking ceremonies for the 23-acre plot will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday. The cemetery park will be developed just north of Camp Williams and "will stand as a monument, clearly visible from I-15 day and night," he said."This is the most important veterans' project in this state to come down the pike in many years," said Gen. George P. Holm, chairman emeritus of the Utah Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. There are 160,000 living veterans in Utah, he said, and 50,000 are expected to die within the next 20 years. About 40 percent of that number will choose to be buried in a veterans' cemetery, he said.
Many families of Utah veterans have had to bury veterans in other states, said Holm. The closest veterans' cemetery is in Fort Collins, Colo.
"It's like people are waiting to die without a place to go," said Scholz.
Besides the convenience of a Utah veterans' cemetery, Holm said the financial saving for veterans is also substantial. There will be no cost to the veteran's family for the plot, opening and closing of the grave, or the setting of the headstone. Burial will also be available at the park for spouses of the veterans.
Scholz said the $1.2 million proj-ect will have a special building for memorial services and will feature statues, plaques and other items paying tribute to veterans.
"It will be an educational edifice for all Utahns . . . in a very dignified, pleasant atmosphere," Holm said.
Scholz said many Utah veterans have been trying to get such a cemetery for 15 years. "That respect and honor of those people is something long overdue in the state of Utah.
"I hope nobody ever drives past the Point of the Mountain again without thinking of this place," Scholz said.
Gov. Norm Bangerter and former Gov. Scott Matheson will speak at the groundbreaking ceremonies. F-16 and helicopter fly-overs, cannon salutes, refreshments and a band will also be part of the ceremonies, said Holm. The public is invited.
The federal and state governments are paying for the project, but Scholz said they are still trying to raise additional money to finish financing it. A granite wall will be built with the names of donors who contribute $100 or more, and a bronze plaque will be given to those who contribute $500 or more, he said.