BLACKFOOT — A large crowd gathered in decent weather Thursday afternoon as ground was officially broken here on Cromwell Lane for Idaho’s much-anticipated second State Veterans Cemetery.
Construction has already begun on the cemetery, located south of State Hospital South, and is anticipated to be completed during the winter of 2020. James Earp, bureau chief for the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery, said he expects the cemetery to start being usable by November of next year.
The Blackfoot location will join the cemetery in Boise for a state veterans cemetery.
Earp said he was pleased to see the Blackfoot facility get to this point after 5 1/2 years of planning and coordination.
State Hospital South Administrator Jim Price was recognized for his role in getting the location for the cemetery on Cromwell Lane, where it will be located on 40 acres of farmland. The initial phase of construction includes work on the main entrance, a committal shelter, roads, a maintenance facility, an assembly area, and supporting infrastructure.
Upon completion of the initial phase, there will be 500 pre-placed crypts, 400 columbarium niches, and 150 in-ground plots for cremains.
Glenn Powers, deputy under-secretary for field programs for Veterans Affairs, said there are 138 national veterans cemeteries, and more work is going into developing state cemeteries.
“All the work that went into this program ... it’s a lot of work,” Powers said. “We’ve had some strong partnerships, people have really worked together on this.”
Powers spoke of two deaths that can be suffered — when a person’s last breath is taken, and when no one remembers the deceased’s name.
“With this cemetery, we want to make sure the last death doesn’t happen,” Powers said. “No veteran should die that second death.”
Blackfoot Mayor Marc Carroll provided the keynote address.
“This has been a long time coming for this area,” Carroll said. “We never want to forget the names and the memories of those who’ve served their country. We are honored to have Blackfoot chosen as the place for the second veterans cemetery.”
Carroll said a lot of people have been involved in the Blackfoot project, including former Blackfoot Mayor Paul Loomis.
“He got the ball rolling,” Carroll said.
The mayor noted that he’s had a number of conversations with people since it was announced that Blackfoot would be the location for the second cemetery, wanting to know when the Blackfoot cemetery would open. He mentioned a conversation with a woman who had been keeping the cremains of her father, husband, brother and nephews, waiting to be brought to such a place.
He spoke of an Idaho Falls woman whose husband’s remains are currently buried there, saying she would have them disinterred so they could be brought to Blackfoot.
“It is an honor that so many people have come out today,” Carroll said.
Participating in the turning of the soil were Carroll, Powers, Earp, Idaho Veterans Affairs Commission Chairman Mel Napier, Idaho Division of Veterans Services Chief Administrator Marv Hagedorn, Idaho Division of Public Works Deputy Administrator Barry Miller, Veterans of Foreign Wars State Commander Bill Heyob representing Idaho’s veterans, architect Jim Mihan from the firm South Beck & Baird, and Ormond Builders President Don Ormond.