Grand Island senator seeks millions for veterans cemetery

1400 grave stones now sit in the Soliders and Sailor Cemetery in Grand Island, but if LB 80 passes through the legislature that number could rise.
Published: Feb. 20, 2023 at 9:38 PM CST
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Around 1,400 grave stones now sit in the Soldiers and Sailor Cemetery in Grand Island, but if LB80 passes through the legislature the cemetery would be the final resting place tens of thousand of veterans.

The renewed push to expand the cemetery at the corner of Webb Road and Capital Avenue started with the disappointment of delayed federal funds.

“Last year we were number one on the VA list for priority funding this year we are number three, Oklahoma and Texas moved ahead of us,” said Don Shuda, Hall County Veteran Service Officer. “The state of New Mexico has been waiting for 10 years for their federal funds. There’s some places in California that’s over seven years. Waiting an additional 10 years, the cost of this cemetery is gonna be two, two and a half times what it is today.”

Enter Senator Ray Aguilar who proposed LB80. He believes they have found a $8 million work around.

“We found out that there is a veteran’s fund out there that can that contains $58 million,” Sen. Aguilar said. “It’s basically for emergencies for veterans if they need a little help. So since it’s there to help veterans we thought why not use it for the ultimate help.”

Mike Ponte, a LB80 supporter, is working with other Hall County officials to get the project underway, and he knows people are waiting anxiously for the cemetery to be finished.

“We have veterans now that have lost their spouses and have been cremated and they’re keeping the urns until this cemetery is done,” Ponte said.

Hall County Commissioner Gary Quandt told Local4 News LB80 is a matter of honor for those who served.

“They served their country well and we need to honor them, they shouldn’t have to wait 10, 15 years just to have a cemetery,” Quandt said.

Shuda said LB80 is set to go before the Appropriations Committee on February 28.