When a military veteran from rural area dies, the family often has to make a choice. Burial in a veterans cemetery is free, but can be too far away to visit easily. The other option is to pay for a plot and headstone close enough to lay out flowers each Memorial Day. But Tennessee is on track to make things a little easier by locating new cemeteries closer to the tens of thousands of veterans who don’t live in the state’s cities.
The last time the state made a point of establishing cemeteries was the early 90s. Back then, the point was capacity—and just in time. Three older, federally-run burial grounds are now so full they can only accept cremated remains.
But with acres left to fill in both Nashville and Memphis, plus two smaller cemeteries in Knoxville, the issue now is making sure distance doesn’t pose a hardship. Veteran’s Affairs Commissioner Many Bears Grinder explains in a video on the state’s website.
“It is our goal to establish a state veteran’s cemetery within a 75 mile radius of our Veteran population.”
That means going into the countryside.
The rural Upper Cumberland region alone is home to 25-thousand veterans. Right now, a committee of local citizens is honing in on possible cemetery sites for the area roughly around McMinnville or Crossville.
Last March, a similar panel identified land not far from Jackson to serve veterans in that part of West Tennessee. The federal government will pay for developing the cemeteries, much as it pays for veteran burials. The only thing not included is the cost of the land. For that, the state is asking groups like the VFW and American Legion to pitch in and help pay.