Bennet Announces Push with Udall to Create New National Veterans Cemetery in Colorado

Senators Introduce Bill Today to Create Vets Cemetery Serving Southern Colorado; Rep. Salazar Introduced House Companion Bill in January

Washington-DC - Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall today announced their push to establish a new national veterans cemetery in El Paso County that would serve the growing veterans populations in the Pikes Peak region and Southern Colorado. The state currently has two national veterans cemeteries - Fort Logan National Cemetery near Denver and Fort Lyons National Cemetery near Las Animas - but Fort Logan will reach full capacity in just ten to fifteen years. There is a need for a third cemetery that is more accessible to Colorado's largest veterans community.

In an effort to fairly serve all of Colorado's veterans and ensure southern Colorado veterans have a cemetery to call their own, Bennet and Udall introduced the Southern Colorado Veterans' Cemetery bill in the Senate today. Congressman John Salazar introduced the companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives in January.

"With over 150,000 veterans in southern Colorado, and our existing veterans cemeteries already stretched thin, there is a clear and growing need for a new National Veterans Cemetery in that region," Senator Bennet said. "Our bill would be a win-win for Colorado, giving our veterans and their families a cemetery closer to home and keeping Colorado's existing cemeteries in use for many more years."

"We have a real need for a national veterans cemetery in southern Colorado, and I'm proud to co-sponsor this bill as a way to thank our veterans for their service," Senator Udall said. "I urge my colleagues to pass this legislation quickly so that our southern Colorado veterans can have a cemetery that honors the sacrifice they have made for our freedom."

The bill would direct the Secretary of Veterans' Affairs (VA) to create a national veterans cemetery in Southern Colorado. It would also require the Secretary to consult with local and state officials before selecting a site for the new cemetery and issue a report on the plan containing its schedule and its costs. That report would be submitted to Congress for review.

With Fort Logan National Veterans Cemetery estimated to reach full capacity in a matter of years, and with veterans and military families in Central and Southern Colorado forced to travel long distances to visit friends and loved ones, a new national veterans cemetery in the region would help ease demand for space at existing facilities while significantly reducing the cost and distance of travel for families of fallen soldiers.

The new cemetery would also enable veterans who reside in Southern Colorado to be buried near the communities they call home. The Pikes Peak area has one of the highest concentrations of veterans in the country, and both of the existing cemeteries-between 70 and 80 miles away-are inconveniently located for families traveling from the Pikes Peak region to visit their loved ones. Additionally, treacherous weather conditions and poor highway access often inhibit such travel.

The legislation will be referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Congressman John Salazar (CO-03) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives earlier this year. The House bill is cosponsored by Reps. DeGette (CO-01), Lamborn (CO-05), Perlmutter (CO-07), and Polis (CO-02).