The new veteran’s cemetery on the former Fort Ord just opened Tuesday and has already added additional staff to handle a flood of burial inquiries. With nearly 2000 applications approved, the Central Coast Veteran’s Cemetery is performing five services a day.
Under a steely gray sky, the children and friends of Airman First Class Alex Klein and his wife Jacquelyn are saying their last good bye.
One of the military honor guards plays taps and another presents the folded American flag “on behalf of a grateful nation” to Klien’s daughter Ann Kern. Kern says, “I think when you hear “Taps,” it just sort of pierces the heart.”
Alex Klein passed two years ago but his daughter kept his ashes anticipating the opening of the cemetery. And even though her father lived in Arizona, his daughter says he wanted to be buried here.
Kern says, “They really loved this area and they really wanted to be close to me. And we were very excited by the prospect of the cemetery coming here. We really weren’t sure at the time they passed it would be a reality. And we are ever so grateful that it became one.”
A short walk down a hill from the peaceful memorial site, the staff in the Administration Building is busy taking calls and greeting walk-ins.
Daniel Fahey with the California Veteran’s Affairs and says they have 40 to 50 people come in. He has been working on the cemetery for the past 18 months. He says Cal Vet has been receiving calls almost since the day ground was broken.
Fahey says the oldest vet served in the Spanish American War, but most died in the 1980’s and 90’s. He adds, “In the 1990, you know is when the movement started to establish the cemetery and so people at that time were expecting that it would come eventually. You have a lot of families here in the Monterey area who since the 1990’s have been holding onto urns waiting for us to open.”
Applications have come from throughout California and a dozen other states. Applicants who have been approved for Arlington and West Point cemeteries are requesting to be buried here.
Fahey says, “As I have talked to people…they say you know that was the most beautiful place I was stationed and I miss it and that is where I would like to be at the end of my life.”
Back at the memorial service Ann’s Brother Adam reflected on the day. He says, “I often wonder about what the value of these rituals are, but I was very deeply moved by what they did today. I mean the playing of taps was incredible. I thought they were so respectful. It really, really felt like a service. It was amazing.”
His sister Ann agrees.
Ann says, “I think for any family wanting to do a service out here that they would be really in awe of how beautiful it is. It felt very peaceful.”
The next phase of the cemetery will include in ground burials, when completed it will accommodate up to 70 thousand sites, enough to last into the next century.