American Village eyed for veterans cemetery
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
News staff writer
An official with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs visited The American Village at Montevallo Tuesday, looking over a possible site for a national cemetery.
Michael Elliott, director of cemetery construction, accompanied Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., on a tour of the village and an inspection of about 700 acres adjoining the 113-acre living history park.
"The aesthetics are superior to other sites," Elliott said of the gently rolling valley around the village. "We are seriously considering this site."
He said the Montevallo land was the first site recommended to his department following passage of a law last year calling for 12 new national veterans cemeteries, one of which is to be located in the greater Birmingham area.
Sites have been selected for cemeteries in Atlanta, south Florida, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Sacramento, Calif. No other sites around Birmingham have been proposed, but it's still early in the process, officials said.
Those who have served in the military and did not receive a dishonorable discharge are eligible to be buried in a national veterans cemetery.
A veterans cemetery in Mobile is closed to further burials, leaving the closest ones to Birmingham near Chattanooga and outside Columbus, Ga. The projected 2005 veteran population in the counties within a 75-mile radius of Birmingham is 212,300.
Bachus said he believed the cemetery would have a positive effect on the thousands of students who visit the village annually. "The American Village celebrates our founding fathers who won our freedom, and the cemetery would honor those veterans who defended the freedoms our forefathers won," he said.
American Village Executive Director Tom Walker agreed, saying the cemetery would provide the constant lesson "that freedom is not free, and liberty is the result of service and sacrifice."
According to Bachus' office, site evaluation will last from six months to a year. Once a site has been selected, the next step is an environmental assessment, requiring another six months to a year.
Survey, appraisal, acquisition and master planning will occupy nine to 12 months, and construction could take as long as two years. Thus, it could be five years before the first veteran is interred at The American Village if the site wins approval.