LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - This weekend, the Southwest Louisiana Veterans Cemetery celebrates its one year anniversary.
When the cemetery opened last year, just before the pandemic, the intent was to provide services to the more than 30,000 veterans in the area.
Although it has been a slow start, cemetery director Dwayne Guidry says they want to assure the public they are still here and providing free services, not only to veterans but their families as well.
”We did a dedication in March, but we weren’t able to place our first veteran until May.”
The cemetery is a place of honor for those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
”We were very fortunate not to sustain any major issues with our cemetery. We did have some landscaping issues and some network issues that delayed some of our services.”
In its inaugural year of COVID-19 and back-to-back hurricanes, the cemetery was still able to provide services.
”We were able to make up any military honors that needed to be made up.”
Guidry, who’s also a veteran, says the cemetery was built to serve as a final resting place for at least 50,000 local veterans.
”The first year has definitely been a challenge with COVID-19 like anywhere else. In the first year, we’ve placed 85 out here; 73 veterans, 11 spouses and 1 dependent child.”
Out of all the challenges, Guidry says the biggest has been outreach and getting the word out about the free services that they provide.
“The main thing for qualified veterans is it’s free for the burial here. Just the look of relief whenever we meet with the veterans and show them and their families what we have to offer here is something we take pride in.”
The Southwest Louisiana Veterans Cemetery officially opened on March 6, 2020.
MORE ABOUT THE SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA VETERANS CEMETERY:
Each veteran and eligible dependent is entitled to a committal service
All services are held at the committal shelter, an open-air covered pavilion with seating.
The committal service lasts between 15 and 30 minutes and consists of a vehicle procession, a committal prayer, and military honors if the deceased is a veteran.
Interments are scheduled Monday through Friday at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 1:30 p.m. The cemetery is closed for services on weekends and state holidays, but is open for visitation 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
Pre-eligibility requests are encouraged but are not required.
For purposes of burial in a veterans cemetery, there are certain requirements:
The veteran must have served on active duty, not in a training status, for at least one day prior to 1980, or two consecutive years after 1980.
For Reserve or National Guard service, the veteran must be retired, have died while in training, received a service-connected disability from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, or have been activated under Title 10 for a specific national operation.
The veteran must have been discharged under honorable conditions
The spouse of a veteran may be interred here if they were married at the time of either one’s death.
Interment, headstones, and memorial markers are provided by the cemetery at no cost to the veteran. Eligible dependents pay a modest fee. Granite headstones are markers come in uniform shapes and sizes according to the burial area of the deceased.
Family members can also fill out an application for Interment at the time of need. To register or for more information, click HERE, or call 337 246-7094.