Monday, May 30, 2011
Veterans' families have a new option for where to bury their loved ones. The new National Cemetery at Miramar is conducting funerals, even before construction on the facility is finished.
Fort Rosecrans is no longer the only national cemetery for veterans in San Diego. Funerals are already under way at the new cemetery at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, even before construction there is finished.
Jets from the air base roar overhead and construction crews are still hard at work building walls with niches for cremation urns.
Phase One is not yet complete, but the need for a place to bury veterans is so pressing that the first vet was buried there last month, and more than 130 caskets are now in the ground.
Dallas Johnson, who owns a mortuary in East County, said he is conducting funerals at the cemetery every day.
“We‘ve been out of room at Fort Rosecrans for many, many years,” Johnson said, “So we’re having to take families all the way for a two hour drive up to Riverside, and when you’re a 70- or 80-year-old lady or man, you don’t want to drive two hours to go visit your (spouse’s) grave.”
Veterans who have died in Iraq or Afghanistan, or those with family members already interred at Fort Rosecrans, can still find a place for a burial there. But the cemetery stopped taking other burials in the 1960s.
More than 230,000 veterans live in San Diego county.
Joseph Kaoli came to Miramar with his mother to bury his stepfather, who fought in Vietnam .
“He didn’t want to be cremated in Point Loma,” Kaoli said, “and his wishes were to be buried in a casket. So we’re grateful for this. Otherwise we would have had to go to a private funeral cemetery, which is pretty expensive.”
So far, only one white headstone adorns the green expanse of grass, but little flags mark the other 130 graves - waiting for their headstones to arrive.
Phase One of the Miramar National Cemetery is the first of six phases and will cost $27 million. When completed, it will offer space for more than 11,000 thousand caskets and more than 12,000 cremation urns.
More than 100,000 people are interred at Fort Rosecrans.