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Fort McPherson becomes a National ShrineTell North Platte what you think
Courtesy Photo­Image
Photo by Darla Golden
North side
Photo by Darla Golden
Historic marker
Photo by Darla Golden
Photo by Darla Golden

The Fort McPherson National Cemetery near Maxwell has achieved a rare status, that of a National Shrine.

The designation is only given to a handful of the 131 national cemeteries in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Fort McPherson is one of 11 cemeteries to attain the designation, signifying the highest standards for operations and maintenance.

“We are thrilled to reach national shrine status,” said Kevin Johnson, the director of Fort McPherson National Cemetery.  “We take pride in being able to provide a setting that is a lasting tribute commemorative of veterans’ service to our nation.”

“We hope the families of those interred here find a sense of serenity and are honored to have their loved ones buried here,” Johnson said. 

In 2010, the cemetery underwent a $777,000 renovation -- realigning more than 7,000 headstones and replacing the turf in 12 sections -- as part of the federal stimulus plan to rejuvenate the suffering economy.

Also, a columbarium for the above-ground inurnment of cremated remains was constructed in 2012. It has 1,000 niches.  

The National Cemetery Administration developed National Shrine standards for cemeteries. 

Standards must be met for internments, ground maintenance, headstones, markers, niche covers as well as equipment and facilities maintenance.

The standards provide direction to maintain national cemeteries as the shrines they are intended to be, with a majestic setting that conveys a sense of serenity, historic sacrifice and nobility of purpose.

Fort McPherson National Cemetery was established on March 3, 1873 on the Fort’s military reservation. 

As the West was settled and the Army closed frontier posts in Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, South Dakota and Nebraska, soldiers and civilians who were buried in post cemeteries were relocated to Fort McPherson National Cemetery.

The cemetery continues to serve veterans and their families, providing final resting places in a national shrine with lasting tributes that commemorate their service and sacrifice to our nation, Johnson said.

More than 3.8 million Americans, including veterans of every war and conflict, are buried in VA national cemeteries.

Veterans with a qualifying discharge, spouses and eligible dependent children can be buried in a VA national cemetery. Also eligible are military personnel who die on active duty. Other burial benefits available for eligible Veterans, regardless of whether they are buried in a national cemetery or a private cemetery, include a burial flag, a Presidential Memorial Certificate, and a government headstone or marker.

The Veterans Administration is in the midst of the largest expansion since the Civil War, currently operating 131 national cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico as well as 33 soldiers' lots and monument sites.

Information on VA burial benefits can be obtained from national cemetery offices, or online at www.cem.va.gov, or by calling VA regional offices toll-free at 800-827-1000. 

To make burial arrangements at any VA national cemetery in a time of need, call the National Cemetery scheduling office at 800-535-1117.


This report was first published in the Bulletin's Feb. 12 print edition.

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 3/2/2014
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