Times West Virginian
One of the things that West Virginia has shown a shortage of in recent years has been burial space for the state’s many veterans.
But because of what happened in Institute on Memorial Day, West Virginia now has the capacity to serve as the final resting place for about 60,000 veterans.
That is great news!
West Virginia dedicated a new $14.1 million veterans cemetery on Monday with Sen. Jay Rockefeller, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Sen. Joe Manchin and other dignitaries on hand.
The first veteran interred there will be Donel Kinnard, the former state commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars who died in 2009 at age 72, for whom the 354-acre Donel Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery was named.
Although work was just starting on the cemetery at the time of Kinnard’s death, it was determined to name it in Kinnard’s honor, for he had been extremely active in establishing West Virginia’s first state-run veterans cemetery. The cemetery will be operated by the West Virginia Division of Veterans Affairs.
Kinnard served in the military for 22 years and received the Navy Cross — the highest medal for that branch — as well as seven Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star.
“(Kinnard) made me promise, no matter what, that this cemetery would get finished,” said Keith Gwinn, secretary of the state Department of Veterans Assistance. “Well, brother, we’ve finished it, and I hope you’re proud.”
Kinnard was also instrumental in establishing the state’s 120-bed veterans nursing facility in Clarksburg before beginning the huge cemetery project.
Kinnard was a Marine who completed seven tours of duty in Vietnam and left the Corps to become one of the first Navy SEALs.
“He’s smiling down on all of us today,” Rebecca Kinnard, Donel’s widow, said at the dedication ceremony. “I’m sure he’s standing here with us ever so happy.”
It was good to see such dignitaries as Rockefeller, Tomblin and Manchin at the dedication.
“I have the utmost respect for our men and women in uniform, and I believe the Donel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery will serve as a worthy resting place for those who have served and sacrificed,” Tomblin said.
Rockefeller also had appropriate remarks.
“It was an honor to work with Don on this project,” he said. “And we worked very hard to get it started because it’s important for our veterans and their families to know they will be remembered always in a place of such honor and distinction.”
“What a beautiful place to visit and reflect on the sacrifices that have been made,” said Rep. Shelley Moore Capito.
Now West Virginia veterans have a place for burial in the southern part of the state where they can be buried with dignity as well as closer to their families.