Councilwoman Faye Rustin, At-Large, Group 1, leading the local effort for the Regional National Veterans' Cemetery, has been lobbying Washington to be sure the funds for this important project remain part of the 2005 President's budget. Submitted last February, the Veterans Administration (VA) requested $455,000,000 for a multi-year cemetery expansion program that is the largest single effort since the Civil War. When completed, the expansion will increase the capacity of the VA's national cemetery system by 85%. Advanced planning is the first step in the cemetery construction process. Therefore, this proposed budget includes $1m in advanced planning for the six cemeteries slated for Jacksonville, FL; Sarasota County, FL; Birmingham, AL; Bakersfield, CA; Philadelphia, PA; and Columbia, S.C.
'Our Florida delegation has been non-partisan working on this project for Jacksonville together; putting our veterans and their needs first!' Rustin remarked. 'U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Bob Graham along with U.S. Representatives Ander Crenshaw and Corrine Brown, State Senator Jim King and State Representative Stan Jordan, have all been an important part of the process.'
Rustin added, 'Their offices have all been anxious to hear from us and assist us in any way possible. Believe me, it has taken a lot of working together behind-the-scenes for us to keep Jacksonville at the top of the list. Our whole staff, from the local to the federal level… and from both parties, is to be commended. Our efforts have proven that we are all passionate about securing the best possible services for our veterans. Our next task is to be sure that the Regional National Veterans' Cemetery for Jacksonville remains in the 2005 federal budget throughout the entire budget process!'
NOTE: Federal law guarantees all veterans the option to be buried in a national or state cemetery within 75 miles of their home. Currently, the closest cemetery in Sumter County, is reaching capacity, and is over 150 miles away.