Top officials in Central Texas were on hand Monday at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery for the groundbreaking of a new columbarium, a structure that will accommodate the remains of 1,600 Texas veterans.
The columbarium will be the centerpiece of an expansion project funded by a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
A series of mausoleumlike wall structures built to hold the ash remains of cremated military service members, the new columbarium will expand the cemetery’s accommodations.
The current columbarium at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery can hold 1,120 veterans.
U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, traveled from Washington, D.C., to Killeen for the groundbreaking and grant presentation.
“That is the debt we owe,” said Carter, who is chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee and co-chairman of the House Army Caucus. “Any time we spend money making sure we have the best military on Earth, that’s money well spent.”
Carter said the current columbarium was filling up rapidly and the new structure would be a good way of accommodating veterans without taking up lots of space.
The cemetery, which was dedicated in 2006, has the ultimate capacity for 50,000 burials and interments of cremated remains, said Jim Suydam, press secretary for the Texas General Land Office.
Standing on a hill looking over the rolling Texas Hill Country, Carter compared the new cemetery to Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.
“But they can’t rival the view that we have,” Carter said.
Joshua de Leon, director of the Veterans Cemetery Grants Service, attended the meeting to present the grant.
“This is to ensure that it can continue to bring options to veterans,” Leon said.
Bell County Judge Jon Burrows also participated in the groundbreaking and grant presentation.
“Great things happen in Bell County and great things certainly happen on this hill,” Burrows said.