Groundbreaking ceremony marks new veterans cemetery

Land-clearing for the new Southeast Louisiana Veterans Cemetery began earlier this fall, but the project got its official start with a ceremonial groundbreaking by Gov. Bobby Jindal and other officials at the site near Slidell on Wednesday.

“Today’s groundbreaking is another step we can take to thank our veterans and eternally honor their courageous service,’’ Jindal said. “This resting place is the least we can do for the thousands of veterans and their families who have given up so much to protect our freedoms and liberties.’’

The Louisiana National Guard donated 75 acres for the cemetery, which is adjacent to Camp Villere. Initially, 21 acres will be developed with an $8.3 million grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Work will include construction of a main entrance, a combined administration and public information center, a maintenance facility, roads and an assembly area. Work is expected to be finished by the end of 2013, and the cemetery will meet the needs of 100,000 veterans and their families.

The cemetery is the third to be built under the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs. The other two are in Keithville and Leesville.

“I’m excited to celebrate this start of construction at Southeast Louisiana Veterans Cemetery,’’ said Lane Carson, secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. He thanked Jindal, the National Guard and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Cemetery Grant program.

“This project has finally become a reality and will provide veterans in Southeast Louisiana with a dignified final resting place,’’ Carson said.

Maj. Gen. Glenn H. Curtis, adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard, said that the Guard was pleased to be able to provide the land for the cemetery.

“Our motto is ‘Protect What Matters,’ and this certainly applies to those who have fought for our many freedoms both home and abroad,” he said.