Funds sought for central Nebraska state veterans’ cemetery

The state would help create a state veterans’ cemetery in central Nebraska under a bill considered by the Appropriations Committee Feb. 28.

Sen. Raymond Aguilar
Sen. Raymond Aguilar

LB80, sponsored by Grand Island Sen. Raymond Aguilar, states legislative intent to appropriate $8 million in general funds to the state Department of Veterans’ Affairs to fund construction and improvements to an existing facility in Grand Island.

Aguilar offered an amendment that instead would transfer the funds from the existing Nebraska Veterans Aid Fund, which was established in 1921 to assist veterans experiencing financial hardships. The fund currently has a balance of $58 million, he said, and easily could be used for the cemetery project without harming the living.

Another option would be a transfer from the state’s Cash Reserve Fund, Aguilar said. Whatever option is chosen, he said, the project needs to be completed in order to honor the state’s veterans.

“The men and women who will benefit the most from this bill are no longer with us,” Aguilar said. “These are men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom and our way of life. They gave us their all; we owe them nothing less.”

Donald Shuda, veterans’ service officer for Hall, Howard, Nance and Sherman counties, testified in favor of the proposal. When the veterans’ home in Grand Island closed, the city was given ownership of the land, including the existing cemetery, he said. Grand Island has since donated an additional 20 acres, Shuda said, and stakeholders have raised 10 percent of the project’s costs.

Chuck Haase also spoke in favor of the proposal on behalf of the city of Grand Island, saying it would provide a central location between the existing Fort McPherson National Cemetery near Maxwell and the new Omaha National Cemetery.

Retired military member Doug Brown of Grand Island agreed. He said he wants to be buried near his family.

“We all want to rest in Grand Island,” Brown said. “Every day we’re losing brothers and sisters in arms. Their last deployment should be where they want to have it.”

No one spoke in opposition to LB80 and the committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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