Veterans push for more federal, state funding for Augusta cemetery

Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 6:48 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 6, 2023 at 12:52 AM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - More than 50,000 veterans call Augusta home, but the nearest veteran cemetery is in Milledgeville.

An idea 20 years in the making to bring a veteran cemetery to Augusta may finally see progress. We talked to the co-chairs behind the project about what’s next and what’s been the hold-up.

“Our men and women of the greater Augusta region need, want, and desire a cemetery to be located here,” said Don Clark, Veterans Cemetery Initiative, co-chair.

Bob Young is the former mayor of Augusta. He said, “It’s pretty clear to see it’s quite an arduous trip for a family or relatives to go visit their loved ones.”

Georgia approved the land for the project behind East Central Regional Hospital in Gracewood, and the state and city set aside a little over $3 million for the project. Now they need up to possibly $10 million in federal funds to make it happen.

Clark said: “We are at the final phases of making this a reality for the area.”

Young said: “The Veterans Cemetery Grant program is really oversubscribed. There are just more expansions and cemetery requests as the veterans’ population ages and more veterans need a place for their final rest.”

Those expansions have taken prevalence over the construction of a new veteran cemetery. They’ve discussed other ways to get the federal and the state to come up with the funds outside of that grant.

Veterans say the time is running out.

Clark said: “Bob and I have talked to endless amounts of families who expressed their discontent with having to bury their loved ones all the way in Columbia, S.C.”

Young says he and Clark will know more about the future of the project in the next six to eight months.

Young said: “I have veterans who call me on a regular basis and say ‘when is this gonna happen?’ ‘How much longer do I have to live to be buried there?’”

Out of the funds acquired so far between the state and the city, Augusta approved 2.3 Million for demolition and construction of an access road -- through the last city administration -- back in 2021. Commission is expected to fully update and approve the letters of intent for the new city administration Tuesday, February 7th.

Former Mayor Bob Young says he and his co-chair Don Clark will know more about the future of this project in the next 6 to 8 months.