Sept. 16, 2010

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- Veterans, distinguished public service figures, family and friends and service members gathered at the Missouri Veterans Cemetery, Monday, to commemorate its opening.

The cemetery is made up on 229 acres, which was donated by Fort Leonard Wood. The approximately $7.5 million necessary to build and open the cemetery, was donated by the Department of Veteran Affairs. The cemetery is estimated to be able to host 7,297 burial plots currently, however, the next six phases will encompass grounds to accommodate more than 25,000 plots.

Among the speakers at the dedication ceremony was Maj. Gen. David Quantock, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general.
Quantock began his commemoration speech with a quote from President John F. Kennedy stating, "A nation reveals itself not only by the people it produces, but also by the people it honors, the people it remembers."

He went on to reminisce on the passing away of his father, a Vietnam veteran, and when visiting his father he realized the difference between a cemetery and a veterans cemetery.
"A veterans cemetery is American history paid for by Americans who at some point succumbed, but fought for our country," Quantock said. "A country that is forever grateful for their sacrifices, and (at that moment) I understood where my father was coming from (when he requested being buried in a veterans cemetery). He wanted to be buried with his brothers and sisters who understood selfless service, dedication, patriotism and a higher calling. So today, we open another veterans cemetery; we celebrate the life and the death of American patriots who understand selfless service, who understood patriotism,; who understood a higher calling."

The ceremony gave public figures an opportunity not only to honor the veterans in attendance and those that joined together in contributing to the opening of the cemetery, but also those that made the ultimate sacrifice.

"This cemetery honors service and memories as a lasting memorial of the men and women of America who have served their country during times of war and peace," said Cliff Hammock, Waynesville mayor. " It is because of their service and their dedication that we can consecrate this hollow ground today."

Veteran burial benefits are available to all honorably discharged veterans, as well as their spouses, dependents and disabled children. These benefits include at no cost grave plot, open and close grave, grave liner, marker, committal service as well as military honors for the veteran, according to Missouri Veterans Commission.

(Jasmine Walthall is the assistant editor for the Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., newspaper, the Guidon.)