West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery slated for expansion

  • Flags are placed on the graves for Veterans Day in 2020 at West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Flags are placed on the graves for Veterans Day at West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery in 2020. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

The West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery is slated to receive funds for expansion in the state Legislature’s Capital Improvement Project proposed budget.

The budget includes $500,000 in general obligation bonds from the state and $4.4 million in authorized federal funds set aside for a total of $4.9 million over a two year period.

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The senate committee on Ways and Means on Thursday passed the budget with amendments. The next stop for the bill will be in the full house floor.

Currently there are 327 individuals buried at the cemetery, which is a federal cemetery owned by the state and administered by the county Parks and Recreation. Only 120 in-ground plots are currently available.

There are 298 columbarium internments with 474 more available.

Parks and Recreation’s Brittany Iyo said the 62-acre cemetery sees an average of 1.3 burials and 2.2 internments per month. At current levels, the cemetery is expected to reach capacity without additional improvements in 7.5 years for in-ground burials and 12.5 years for columbaria.

“Our Island is thankful for the foresight of our veterans, citizens and the VA for monies received under the Veterans Cemetery Grants Program more than 20 plus years ago,” said Don Zero, chief financial officer and public information officer for West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery Development and Expansion Association. “It assisted our state in providing grave sites where the VA’s national cemeteries could not fully satisfy their burial needs.”

Rep. Nicole Lowen (D-North Kona) said the expenditure, requested by the Department of Defense, would expand the burial and columbarium capacity for 10 years.

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A portion of the funding is also for a non-potable well to meet the water needs of the cemetery, currently contracted with a private company.

“The officers and members of the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery Development &Expansion Association have worked tirelessly to maintain such a hallowed place for our veterans. It’s serene setting honors our vets with not only burial sites but a scattering garden, Purple Heart memorial, Korean War memorial all set in a natural flora environment,” Zero said. “Looking toward the future with this project, we will continue to maintain a befitting place where the few who have served honorably to protect the rights of many can be our heroes’ last home.”