On Tuesday morning the federal Veterans Administration awarded a $7.7 million grant to the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs for the construction of a state-operated Veterans Cemetery in Ardmore. The 23 acre cemetery will have space for up to 32,000 burial plots and will be located by the Ardmore Veterans Center.
Sen. Frank Simpson, R-Springer, has been working on the project from the beginning and said he is excited to see the idea coming into fruition.
“We first broached the idea back in 2015 and started really working on it in earnest in late 2016,” Simpson said. “I met with the planning commission in Ardmore and held some town hall meetings and spoke with a lot of the residents in the area. Everybody understood what we were doing, and we’ve been working on it thoroughly since then.”
Simpson said the cemetery’s design and approval process will likely take a couple years, and construction will only begin once those things are in place. However, being awarded the funding has been major step forward.
“There are still a lot of hurdles to go through because this money is coming from the federal government, but the biggest hurdle is and cleared — and that is that this grant has been approved,” Simpson said. There are still a lot of steps to go through to finalize the whole project, but this has been a key step in the whole process.”
While there are two federally run cemeteries in Oklahoma, one at Ft. Sill and the other at Ft. Gibson, the Ardmore cemetery will be the first state-run veterans cemetery in the state. Simpson said that Ardmore’s distance from those two federal cemeteries as well as the Dallas-Ft. Worth National Cemetery make it an ideal location because one of the requirements to approve a state-operated veterans cemetery is that it must be at least 90 miles away from the nearest existing national cemetery.
He went on to stress the benefit to the families of local veterans.
“The great thing about it is we’re going to have a cemetery where our local veterans can be buried and their families won’t have to drive to go visit their gravesite. It’s really going to be beneficial to so many families.”