New National Cemeteries for Florida Veterans
Florida veterans will soon have two more options for burial at VA National Cemeteries in the state. Currently, there are seven national cemeteries, but large populations of veterans in north and east central Florida are still not served.
So, the Department of Veterans Affairs purchased land for two new cemeteries to accommodate about 247,000 veterans living more than 75 miles from any of the current cemeteries.
For veterans in the Daytona and Melbourne region, the VA purchased 318-acres, known as Acosta Groves, on US. Route 1 in northern Brevard County. Veterans living in the Tallahassee region will have a new cemetery on 250 acres along Apalachee Parkway.
Veterans in the Tampa Bay area have to drive an hour north to Bushnell's Florida National Cemetery for burials because Bay Pines National Cemetery in Pinellas County only has room left for cremated remains.
Some 1.6 million veterans live in Florida. A VA survey showed that many are not using their burial benefits because the national cemeteries were too far away according to Michael Nacincik of the VA National Cemetery Administration.
Nacincik said 80 percent of burials are from within a 75-mile radius of a national cemetery.
“So, the VA uses that as a benchmark when we’re looking at veterans populations to place that cemetery that captures that 75-mile circle,” Nacincik said.
It will take about 18 months to construct and open the cemeteries in Tallahassee and near Daytona. In the past five years, the VA has opened new cemeteries in Jacksonville, South Florida in Lake Worth and Sarasota. The St. Augustine National Cemetery has been closed to new burials since 1997.
The VA National Cemeteries Administration offers an online map of 131 national cemeteries it oversees in 39 states and Puerto Rico. Nearly 4 million Americans including veterans from every war are buried in the cemeteries and 33 soldier lots and monument sites.