Board asks governor to support veterans cemetery project
Fri, 01/29/2021 - 10:29am caleb
Letter of support for the proposal says cemetery would provide economic benefits and help military families
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
A local effort to have a veterans cemetery built in the Grayling area took another step forward on Thursday, January 28, as the Crawford County Board of Commissioners opted to send a letter of support for the project to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
According to the letter, the addition of a veterans cemetery in Grayling would benefit the state and local economies while also providing benefits for military members and their families.
“Thank you for including in this year’s budget the opportunity to explore the possibility of having a veterans cemetery in Northern Michigan. We think this would be a great boon to troop support, as well as the economy, and we think Grayling is the most natural location,” the letter to Governor Whitmer says.
“We have researched and traveled to state-operated veteran cemeteries in Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Tennessee so we know first-hand what they look like and how they are run. The Veterans Cemetery Grant Program funds construction and operations are, to the greatest part, covered by federal burial reimbursements. The monetary benefits to the State of Michigan and its veterans far exceed the fractional expenses to the State of Michigan. Moreover, looking at the current veteran population in Northern Michigan, it is not unreasonable to expect 500 internments a year – not a small operation,” according to the letter. “When a veteran is buried in a civilian cemetery, the cost averages around $2,500. The availability of a Veterans Cemetery would save our military heroes and their families thousands of dollars and annually would keep over $1 million in the Northern Michigan economy. It is not surprising that many states have multiple state operated Veteran Cemeteries – it makes sense from a social and economic perspective.”
If approved for funding, it would take a few years for the veterans cemetery to be constructed and made ready for burials and visitations.
“Once a Veterans Cemetery grant is approved by the federal government, it is four years before it is operational. Grayling has been considered two times in the past and we feel 2021 is the year to make it happen. We enthusiastically and respectfully urge you to move ahead with all due speed on the evaluation process. If Michigan can make the July 1, 2021 submission date, the cemetery can be operational that much sooner. We think your conclusion will be the same as ours – Grayling is the perfect location for a state-operated Veterans Cemetery,” according to the letter.
In touting Grayling for the location of a veterans cemetery, the letter to the governor says the area is “centrally located with convenient I-75 access” and it’s close to Camp Grayling.
“We are centrally located for the veteran population north from Bay County to north of the Mackinaw Bridge. Training hundreds of thousands of troops over the past 100 years makes us a natural choice. Land is available, as over 50 percent of county land is owned by the state,” according to the letter.
The letter has signature spots for project committee chairman Wayne Koppa (a former Camp Grayling commander), the Crawford County Board of Commissioners, the City of Grayling, and Grayling Charter Township.
Koppa pitched the veterans cemetery proposal to the Grayling City Council on Monday, August 10, during the council’s regular meeting. The city council unanimously approved a resolution in support of the project during its regular meeting on Monday, September 14, according to official meeting minutes.
Koppa also took the idea to Grayling Charter Township, and the township board – according to official meeting minutes – unanimously approved a resolution in favor of the veterans cemetery proposal during the board’s regular meeting on September 16.
On Thursday, January 28, Crawford County Commissioner Carey Jansen reported to the Board of Commissioners that a committee for the project met and the city and township have both supported the proposal. The Crawford County Board of Commissioners, during its Zoom meeting on January 28, voted 7-0 to send the letter to Governor Whitmer.