State eyes Kilmichael for second veterans cemetery

other_state_newsBy Jeff Amy

Associated Press

JACKSON – Mississippi is considering building a second state veterans cemetery in Kilmichael.

Randy Reeves, executive director of the state Veterans Affairs Board, said the agency has chosen a 50-acre parcel as its preferred site.

Reeves said Montgomery County owns the land, which has frontage on U.S. Highway 82, and is moving toward donating it to the state.

Ron Wood, president of the Montgomery County board of supervisors, could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday. Reeves said the site selection is not yet final.

The state will seek a grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to develop the land. The federal government gave $6.9 million to develop Mississippi’s first veterans’ cemetery in Newton, though the state has to pay for operation.

In Newton, more than 260 people have been buried since the cemetery’s 2011 opening, Reeves said. That cemetery has room for 5,000 burials in its first phase, as well as plans for two additional phases.

Reeves said the goal is to provide a state or national cemetery within 75 miles of every veteran. In addition to the state cemetery, there are national cemeteries accepting burials in Biloxi, Corinth, Natchez and Memphis, Tennessee. Despite those options, Reeves said there are 22,000 unserved veterans in northern Mississippi.

“We’re interested in making sure we fill that need and the national VA is too,” he said.

The Veterans Affairs Board looked at a number of other sites, including in Grenada County and at the former Florewood State Park near Greenwood. Florewood is now controlled by Leflore County. Supervisors offered a portion of the property to the board, but Leflore County Supervisor Anjuan Brown told the Greenwood Commonwealth that the county was unwilling to donate the whole property, saying that’s what the state wanted.