SANTA FE, N.M. — Gov. Susana Martinez on Tuesday announced a plan to build veterans cemeteries in rural areas of New Mexico on state and municipal land.
At a news conference Martinez noted that there are only two national cemeteries in the state: In Santa Fe and Fort Bayard, plus the Fort Bliss National Cemetery in Texas outside of El Paso. This she said is inconvenient for veterans and their families in rural parts of the state who have to travel long distances for funerals or to visit the grave of a loved one in a national cemetery.
“They have a right to be buried in a cemetery,” Martinez said of military veterans. She said her father was buried at the Fort Bliss National Cemetery in January.
Martinez said the state Veterans Affairs Department will be talking to veterans groups as well as local officials around the state to determine the best places for the new cemeteries. Initially, she said, the state will build three or four small cemeteries of three to fives acres. She estimated the cost to be $1.3 million to $1.6 million each.
Eventually, she said, the state would build about 10 new veterans cemeteries.
The state will apply for a federal grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Martinez said. The state would need at least $390,000 in start-up money, she said. The federal government would reimburse the state for that amount. The state government would be responsible for maintaining the cemeteries.
The governor said that New Mexico would be the first state to build its own veterans cemeteries. “New Mexico will lead the way on this,” she said.
There are 172,000 military veterans in New Mexico, Martinez said.
She said she will ask the Legislature for the funding next year.