Councilwoman Faye Rustin, At-Large, Group 1, has been working diligently for the better part of two years to have a Regional National Veterans' Cemetery built in Jacksonville. In June 2003, the House of Representatives approved the National Cemetery Expansion Act (House Resolution 1516), which designated Jacksonville, Florida as one of the six sites nationally for building a veterans' cemetery. From there, the bill went to the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee where it passed September 30, 2003. However, there are currently three pieces of legislation on this issue moving through Congress in different stages of the approval process. Added to this is the impending deadline for appropriations for the federal fiscal budget for 2004.
With this in mind, and knowing that time is of the essence, Councilwoman Rustin will travel to Washington, D.C. next week (October 15, 2003) in hopes of streamlining the process. While there she plans to meet with the National Veterans' Affairs Office and key members of Congress, including Rep. C.W. Young, Chairman of the Congressional Appropriations Committee, in order to find common ground between these bills so that building a Regional National Veterans' Cemetery in Jacksonville becomes an expedient reality.
In her own words, 'It is of the utmost importance to recognize the need for this in our own community so that those men and women who have faithfully served our country will know, as will their families and friends, that without question there will be a final resting place befitting their service (sacrifice) close to home and available for them if they so chose.' She added, 'Jacksonville has always had strong ties to our military. With active military bases and almost 325,000 veterans residing within the 75-mile-radius of Jacksonville, the need for a Regional National Veterans' Cemetery in our area is paramount!'
There will be a report of her findings forthcoming upon Councilwoman Rustin's return.
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.