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State cemetery built to honor veterans
November 18, 2016 Jerry Purvis   

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Frank Marquez/Gering Citizen Members of the Service, Women, Action, and Power float, from left: Carol Sinner, Navy; Amy Anderson, Army; and Jen Baird, Army; throw candy to the crowd during last Friday’s Veterans Day Parade down East Overland in Scottsbluff. A good turn out of people from the community enjoyed numerous floats, motocycles, military vehicles, and local middle school and high school marching bands in honor of our veterans.

Although Nebraska has a state veterans cemetery in the Panhandle, many people might not be aware of it or the services it can offer families of veterans.

The cemetery is located on 20 acres just outside Alliance and is Nebraska’s only state cemetery for veterans. A state cemetery gives Nebraskans the opportunity to honor our nation’s heroes and promote patriotism through community-centered events during the entire year.

“We’re very fortunate to have this in western Nebraska,” said Allen Pannell, Administrator of the Nebraska Veterans Cemetery at Alliance. “One of the challenges we have is to address the many misconceptions people have about the cemetery. Many of them think a veteran has to have a Bronze Star or be a resident of Alliance or some other criteria to be interred here. So they assume they’d never qualify for burial here.”

Pannell said any veteran who has an honorable discharge, as well as their spouse and dependent children, can be buried there. There are also no fees for any of the cemetery’s services.

“This cemetery is a wonderful benefit for Nebraska veterans,” he said. ‘Few people are using it because they don’t understand we want to make people eligible to honor the veterans and their families.”

The Nebraska State Veterans Cemetery was made possible by legislation passed in 2008. It opened for interment in 2009. Since then, there have been 220 interments. It was built to accommodate 8,000 interments with the option to expand as needed.

“We’ve buried veterans from all over the country who are from western Nebraska,” Pannell said. “They may have retired somewhere else, but they wanted to come back to the prairie to rest.”

All costs for services are covered by the cemetery. That includes gravesite, concrete casket crypt, headstone, administration, facilities, equipment and perpetual grave care. The only cost to the family is for services provided by their funeral home. Cemetery staff are also ready to help with pre-planning.

Pannell said another part of his job is to present the cemetery’s story to local community service organizations. “It’s not just a simple piece of ground,” he said. “It was built to honor veterans throughout the year and we have a number of programs to do that, not just on Veterans Day and Memorial Day.”

One of those programs was last year, when the cemetery hosted a huge event to observe the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Special invitations were sent to all veterans throughout the Panhandle and several World War II vets were honored during the ceremony.
“We’re open to having programs like that throughout the year,” Pannell said. “We have school groups come here to learn about the sacrifices our veterans have made to secure our freedom. We’re very community centered.”

He said their mission isn’t just to give veterans an honorable resting place, but to teach young people the cost of freedom.

For more information about the Nebraska State Veterans Cemetery at Alliance, call 308-763-2958 or visit www.vscaf.org. The Veterans Cemetery is not part of the city cemetery.
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