Update on Veterans Cemetery

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Seventy-five acres of land in Newton County, 3 miles west of Hickory between Interstate 20 and Highway 80, has been set aside to become a cemetery for veterans of the U.S. military.

The cemetery, which will be the only state veterans cemetery in Mississippi, was authorized in 2004 with the passing of a Senate bill authored by Sen. Videt Carmichael.

In 2007, another bill authorized $700,000 to cover costs for planning and development.

In 2008, the decision for the land on which to construct the cemetery was made and the master plan was submitted to the Veterans Administration.

The cemetery will be completed under a 30-year plan. By 2011, the cemetery will open, ready for up to 5,000 veterans to be laid to rest.

Funding for the cemetery is from the VA Cemetery Program Grant as well as state grants, Mississippi Legislative appropriations, and private and corporate donations.

"Over the last 3 years there's been a big effort to bring the State Veterans Cemetery to the Newton area and to actually stand up this organization so that we have a place to properly honor our veterans in the state of Mississippi with a place for their final resting," said director Randy Reeves.

"I don't think there's another site in the state that was more appealing than this site," said Newton County District 5 supervisor Jimmie Johnson. "They came before us and the wheels went in motion at Mississippi State. They were gracious enough to grant this land to the Veterans Cemetery."

Even the economy can benefit, according to Newton Chamber of Commerce director Angie Burks.

"We happen to think Newton is a great small town," Burks said. "We think Hickory is a great small town. We have two exits that will lead to the cemetery, the Hickory exit and the Newton exit. We have hotels available; we have food available. We have shopping."