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WaKeeney veterans cemetery honored

Special to The Hays Daily News

TOPEKA -- The state's four veterans cemeteries in WaKeeney, Fort Dodge, Winfield and Fort Riley received the Excellence of Appearance Award on Wednesday from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Cemetery Grants Service and National Cemetery Administration.

"This is a great honor. The state of Kansas has four great veterans cemeteries that provide excellent options for the veterans and their eligible dependents," said Gregg Burden, executive director of the Kansas Commission on Veterans' Affairs.

Joshua de Leon, director of the VCGS/NCA, presented the awards to the KCVA during Wednesday's commission meeting.

"We are proud to be here today to present all four Kansas state veterans cemeteries with the Excellence of Appearance Award. Although some of us may make distinctions between national military, state and tribal cemeteries, veterans do not. They expect the same high standards of appearance and service wherever they choose to be laid to rest," de Leon said. "The National Cemetery Administration is proud to continue the strong partnership we share with the state of Kansas in serving veterans."

The state received $19.3 million from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Cemetery Grants Service and National Cemetery Administration, for the construction of the four cemeteries. In 2002, the cemetery at Fort Dodge opened, and in 2004, cemeteries at WaKeeney and Winfield opened. The Fort Riley cemetery opened in 2009.

"Hopefully, this gives veterans and their dependents peace of mind knowing that their loved ones have been laid to rest at a place of dignity and honor, where the strive for excellence in all areas is the standard," KCVA Cemetery Program Director Kafer Peele said.