Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs to dedicate the Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Spanish Fort on Pearl Harbor Day MONTGOMERY – As the state’s first owned and operated veterans cemetery nears completion, plans are underway for the dedication of the Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Spanish Fort on Dec. 7. State and local dignitaries will be on hand for the dedication that will begin at 10 a.m. “Dedicating the cemetery on Pearl Harbor Day will serve as a reminder of the sacrifices made by Americans while defending our nation’s freedom,” said retired Navy Rear Adm. W. Clyde Marsh, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs. A combination of many years of site searches and discussion by local leaders; unwavering support from veterans as well as detailed planning by state and federal officials; and approval by the State Board of Veterans Affairs to establish a state veterans cemetery program has led to a hallowed resting place for Alabama Veterans and their families. In 2008, the State Board of Veterans Affairs (SBVA) approved the department’s request to conduct a thorough review regarding the feasibility, support, sustainability and strategy for a state veterans cemetery. The following year the State Board of Veterans Affairs unanimously agreed to pursue legislation that would establish a state veterans cemetery program. Legislation, sponsored by Rep. Randy Davis of Daphne and Sen. Hank Sanders of Selma, passed in 2009 establishing the cemetery program under the management of the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs. After Gov. Bob Riley signed the bill into law on May 22, 2009, the state VA awarded Walcott Adams Verneuille Architects of Fairhope the contract for designing the cemetery’s 103-acre site plan. The plan became an essential part of the state VA’s application for a $7 million federal VA construction grant. In May 2011, the Baldwin County Commission deeded the cemetery property to the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced the award of the federal grant in August 2011. With the federal grant in place and state funds approved by the SBVA, White-Spunner Construction, Inc.of Mobile was awarded the construction contract. Construction began in October 2011 with a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony. “This cemetery will provide the final act of honor, dignity and respect that our veterans have earned through their service and sacrifice,” said Marsh. “It is appropriate the cemetery will serve them and their families for the next 100 years because of the diligent efforts of many patriots in Baldwin County and our great state.” The first phase of the cemetery covers 22.8 acres that includes an administration building, maintenance facility, committal shelter and a memorial walk. There are a total of 2,776 graves with in ground crypts, traditional graves, columbarium niches and scatter grounds. Burials are expected to begin in early 2013. Veterans who served honorably, their spouses and eligible dependents will be entitled to burial services. The state veterans cemetery will follow National Cemetery Administration (shrine) and federal VA standards in addition to state policies and procedures. The Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Spanish Fort is located at 34904 Ala. HWY 225, Spanish Fort, Ala. 36577 across from the Fort Blakeley State Park and adjacent to the historic Saluda Hill Cemetery. The cemetery dedication is open to the public and media.