Miramar National Cemetery in San Diego officially opened Nov. 22, with its first burials of four veterans and a family member at the new facility.
The cremated remains of a U.S. Army veteran and three U.S. Navy veterans, along with a relative, were interred during the afternoon ceremony. The burials followed a consecration in which spiritual leaders representing seven religious traditions performed ceremonies on the grounds where the nation’s warriors will be laid to rest.
“This is a special day for California’s Veterans,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said from Washington, D.C. “By building a national shrine in San Diego, we will provide a final resting place and lasting tribute to the men and women who have faithfully served our nation.”
The four buried Monday were Army veteran Dominador N. Yacapin and Navy veterans Mary J. Crothers, Reginald Mills and Julius Raetz. Military honors at the opening ceremony included a rifle salute by an Army squad and the playing of “Taps” by an Air Force bugler. An honor guard representing the nation’s military services presented national ensigns and a Presidential Memorial Certificate to each of the veterans’ families.
Acting Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Steve Muro was joined by VA and local officials, including San Diego City Councilman Todd Gloria and retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Cardenas of San Diego in the interment of cremated remains.
The 313-acre Miramar National Cemetery will offer in-ground gravesites for caskets and cremated remains as well as a columbarium, providing a full range of burial alternatives to approximately 235,000 Veterans in the San Diego County area. Casket burial options will be available in early 2011.
Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery closed to casket burials in 1966, although it stays active with casketed interments of family members of those currently interred and inurnments of cremated remains. Riverside National Cemetery was until now the nearest national cemetery offering full burial options.
When completed, the first phase of construction will include approximately 11,500 casket gravesites; 4,900 in-ground cremation sites; 10,000 columbarium niches; an administration building and maintenance complex; two committal service shelters; and a public assembly area. The project will also incorporate systems for water distribution, roads, utilities, signs and landscaping.
Kirk Leopard, the director of the new cemetery, will remain the director of Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, a position he has held since 2007.
Veterans with a discharge issued under conditions other than dishonorable, their spouses and eligible dependent children can be buried in a VA national cemetery. Also eligible are military personnel who die on active duty, their spouses and eligible dependents.
Information on VA burial benefits can be obtained from national cemetery offices, from the Internet at www.cem.va.gov or by calling VA regional offices at (800) 827-1000. To make burial arrangements at the time of need at any VA national cemetery, call the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at (800) 535-1117.
Additional information about the Miramar National Cemetery is available by calling the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery office at (619)553-2084.