East overlooked for veterans cemetery

By Christina Calloway

PNT senior writer

ccalloway@pntonline.com

U.S. Navy veteran Steve Kemp feels the eastern side of the state is often forgotten.

Tuesday’s announcement from Gov. Susan Martinez’s office of four new proposed locations for veterans cemeteries in rural New Mexico — which didn’t include Clovis or Portales — only proves to him the area was looked over once again.

“It’s difficult,” said Kemp, a Vietnam War veteran. “It’s the type of thing I hate to throw politics in but if (Martinez) throws stunts like that, she’s going to lose her re-election bid …that’s going to make a lot of people upset.”

Martinez said in a press release that four rural locations — Angel Fire, Carlsbad, Fort Stanton, and Gallup — have been proposed areas to locate veterans cemeteries.

The cemeteries are part of Martinez’s initiative to provide federally-rated, final resting places that are closer to home for the state’s veterans.

“New Mexicans have always stood ready to answer the call to serve our state and nation in the U.S. armed forces, and our veterans and their families deserve a special resting place befitting their service and sacrifices,” said Martinez. “In a state as large and rural as New Mexico, it is our responsibility to ensure that these resting places are as close to home as possible, so that our veterans and their families do have to travel hours upon hours to lay their loved ones to rest or to visit their burial sites.”

The 2014 capital outlay bill Martinez signed provides $600,000 to plan, design and construct regional veterans cemeteries statewide. The press release said this funding serves as a down payment for the projects.

Additional local veterans cemeteries could be established in other communities as part of subsequent phases of the project, the press release said.

Kemp said it would mean a lot to the veterans he knows if the state were to build a cemetery for them here.

“I think more of the veterans would pick to be buried here,” Kemp said. “The nearest (federal veterans cemetery) is in Santa Fe and the next nearest one is in El Paso, Texas. Unless things change around here, I’d prefer to be buried in El Paso.”

Portales leaders were also disappointed in Martinez’s decision.

“We are certainly disappointed that neither Portales or Clovis was chosen as a location,” said Portales City Manager Doug Redmond. “The east side of the state is deserving of consideration to provide citizens with easy access to veterans cemeteries.”

Portales Mayor Sharon King feels the decision is bittersweet.

“I’m disappointed because it would have been great to have it in Portales but they chose some excellent places to locate them in,” King said.

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