Efforts to build a Veteran’s Cemetery on the former Fort Ord passed a crucial deadline this week. Supporters of the project raised the 2 point 6 million dollars necessary to secure a Federal grant to build the first phase of the project.
Jimmy Panetta is a Navy vet and board member of the Central Coast Cemetery Foundation. In a recent interview with KAZU News, he talked about the need for a local cemetery for the veterans who live here. Panetta said, “We don’t have any resting place that honors our veterans on the Central Coast. The closest one is over in the central valley. And just to give you an example I have had a number of people tell me I don’t want my husband, I don’t want my loved one, buried in the Central Valley. I want him or her buried nearby, more importantly, buried right in our home on the Central Coast. So I think that is the importance of it. It means a hell of a lot to these family members who have their loved one’s ashes in closets because they are waiting for a cemetery.”
The money raised by the Cemetery Foundation and the 6.7 million dollar Federal grant will be used to begin phase one of the project, the construction of a columbarium; a structure to hold the cremated remains of veterans.
But , according to Panetta, the fundraising is far from over. He said, “It will never stop and from the first shovel removing the dirt until the last shovel replacing the dirt on the grave the fundraising will never stop because there will always be money required by the state, there will always be money in which we can continue to build and sort of add to this monument there at the cemetery. Like I said right now it is going to be a phase in cemetery. Phase one just deals with 5000 above ground niches; a columbarium type cemetery. Phase two will then focus on the in ground burials and the other deserved monuments for that cemetery.”
Two measures on next month’s ballot involve land near the cemetery. But they could also affect a so-called endowment parcel; land set aside by the veterans to be sold to establish an endowment fund. Panetta isn’t taking a position on the measures saying that’s for voters to decide.
He said, “Our focus is on the land in cemetery. The measures as you just stated focus on the land outside the cemetery. So right now in regards to phase one no matter what happens with the measures, that cemetery, as long as we have the community support that cemetery will get started and will get built. Now what you have to ask yourself is what is going to happen with phase two and maybe phase three with the cemetery and especially with that endowment parcel. And I think that is the question you have to ask, but to me that’s down the road. My focus right now is getting our footprint there by starting construction there on phase one and focusing on the land in the cemetery not the land surrounding the cemetery. “
That focus is important because the cemetery still must go through an environmental impact review. The Foundation must also raise the money to complete the other phases and pay back loans. But Panetta says the Vets are determined to build the cemetery and build it soon.
He said, “I wouldn’t be here if it was going to take another decade. I think we are going to see the ball rolling a lot quicker on this……my attitude is we’re going to continue to go forward no matter what obstacle they put in front of us we’re going to get through it and get around it, we’re going to get over it. That’s kind of the attitude that we have. That’s the attitude that veterans have. That’s how we are trained. We know how to fight.”
The Cemetery Foundation website is c-c-v-c-f dot com.