Update on Veterans Cemetery

Groundwork started three months ago at the site of the Mississippi's State Veterans Cemetery. However, project officials say because of circumstances beyond their control, the opening of the cemetery could be slightly delayed.

It's located along Interstate 20 between Newton and Hickory.

Although the federal grant for the project was received in November 2009, wet conditions delayed the start until April 2010. Now three months after starting the work, contractors say they are on track to have the first phase of the project open in late spring or early summer.

"We're probably about 75% complete with our work," said Jamie Keeton of Joe McGee Contractors of Lake, which is doing the work.

"They've already laid the foundation for the administrative building, and actually, I think next week they're going to start to lay the foundation for the committal shelter," said Tim Lockey, cemetery director.

With its projected opening less than a year away, volunteers with the effort are feverishly working to raise money for things for the cemetery that cannot be paid for with government money.

"The tower, which is referred to as the carillon tower, this is a huge tower where they will play 'Taps' music there. We need to raise somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000," said Jack Winstead of the Friends of Mississippi Veterans.

This is money that will also be used to purchase a sign for the cemetery that will be placed next to the interstate.

"We have raised about $70,000 at this point," said Winstead. "I would like to at least double that in the next 60 days."

Anyone interested in making a tax deductible donation to the effort may call 601-775-9212 or visit the Friends of Mississippi Veterans website. A link is provided below.

"This is just a way to say thank you to the military people," Winstead said.

The cemetery is 85 acres, and will be completed over a 20-plus year period. Once finished, it will serve as the final resting place for almost 30,000, their spouses and children.

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