. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

CARLSBAD — The New Mexico Department of Veterans’ Services (NMDVS) hosted a briefing July 21 in Carlsbad to provide on update on the status of the Carlsbad State Veterans’ Cemetery.

NMDVS Cabinet Secretary Sonya Smith informed the crowd that plans are moving forward for construction of the 10-acre, $6-million project, which, when completed, will contain 435 in-ground crypts for caskets and urns.

“I understand there have been some starts and stops and other bureaucratic delays with this process,” Smith said, referencing the fact that a veterans’ cemetery in Carlsbad has been in discussions for at least 20 years. “But I thank you for your patience. DVS is finally moving forward with this cemetery.”

The cemetery will be built just north of the existing Sunset Memorial Gardens cemetery. The project has moved up on the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ (VA) National Cemetery Association (NCA) project list and should receive funding once the federal budget is finalized and released on Oct. 1.

“The paperwork is in,” said NMDVS Cemetery and Monuments Program Bureau Chief Dave Walker. “NCA should have about $50 million set aside for state cemetery projects, and we should be high up, probably fifth on that list.

“In the past, we’ve always been in the high 40s and then in the 20s. But the project has now been approved, so everything looks good.”

State Benefits Division Director Edward Mendez talked about the projected timeline of the project.

“Once we get the funding, an architectural and engineering survey will be done at the site,” Mendez said. “We hope to have shovels in the ground at this time next year. It all depends on the ground, topography, how everything looks. But the bottom line is, we’re ready to go.”

Mendez said the cemetery project should take about 18 months to complete and will provide an economic boost to the area due to the need for local subcontractors. The cemetery will employ three full-time staff with the possibility of a fourth position.

Carlsbad’s will be the state’s fourth veterans’ cemetery managed by the NMDVS, joining Angel Fire, Fort Stanton and Gallup. The cemeteries are built to the same construction and landscaping standards set by the VA for its national cemeteries.

“We’re very glad to see the state moving forward in providing this service to our veterans and their families,” said Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway. “Many members of the Carlsbad community have been advocating for this project for a long time.

“We especially wish to thank Dagmar Youngberg, Adon Rodriguez, and all current and former members of our cemetery board. A great deal of hard work has gone into this project and similar efforts on a local level.”