I recently spoke to the Irvine City Council in support of Assembly Bill 1453, introduced by Assembly Member Sharon Quirk Silva (65th AD), which would create a state-owned and state-operated veterans’ cemetery in Orange County, the state’s largest county with no dedicated burial ground for its combat veterans and other servicemen and women.
In addition, I wrote to Irvine’s Mayor and City Council members, as well as to Irvine’s two Assembly Members, Allan Mansoor (AD 74) and Donald Wagner (AD 68), Irvine’s California State Senator Mimi Walters (SD 37), Senator Ben Hueso (SD 40), Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and Senator Lou Correa (SD 34), Orange County member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, urging them not only to support the bill to create an Orange County Veterans Cemetery, but also to locate this cemetery in a portion of the Great Park that was once the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.
I was tremendously proud that my father, a decorated Korean War combat veteran, joined with many other Orange County veterans and also spoke to the City Council, urging them to support a veterans’ cemetery in a portion of the Great Park.
The Irvine City Council then narrowly voted 3-2 to support AB 1453 and call for the establishment of the Southern California Veterans Cemetery in Orange County, to express the City’s strong interest in providing at least 100 acres of land at the Orange County Great Park (formerly MCAS El Toro), and to form a site selection committee of interested parties to see if a suitable location is feasible in and around the Great Park location.
Now we must protect that victory.
Here is a press release issued by Orange County Veterans’ Memorial Park Committee (OCVMP) urging supporters of the veterans’ memorial park to attend the Irvine City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 22, to ensure that Irvine moves forward with its promises without delay. It is a call for action to support Orange County’s veterans:
PRESS RELEASE AND MEDIA ALERT
Contact: Bill Cook, (949) 697-0123
Orange County Veterans Have Their Sights Trained On
A Southern California Veterans Cemetery
Group gaining support from State Legislature and a number of Orange County cities.
Ever since the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro (MCAS El Toro) closed in 1999, a small group of Orange County veterans have dreamed of having veterans’ cemetery and memorial for all soldiers who have fought and died defending the United States located on a portion of the former military base. Over the past several months, the group is finally seeing some signs of progress.
The group of about 25 veterans and other veterans’ issues supporters, now known as the Orange County Veterans Memorial Park committee, reports that the following milestones, according to committee chair Bill Cook of Mission Viejo.
In January, Assembly Member Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-CA65), and Chair of the Assembly Committee on Veterans Affairs, introduced Assembly Bill 1453 that would direct the Department of Veterans Affairs to apply to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs State Cemetery Grant Program for the construction of a Southern California Veterans Cemetery in Orange County.
In addition, AB 1453:
1. Allows all honorably discharged veterans and their spouses/children eligible for interment in the cemetery — a fee would be imposed for each spouse or child interred in the cemetery.
2. Creates the Southern California Veterans Cemetery Master Development Fund — all money received for the design, development, and construction of the cemetery shall be deposited into this fund.
3. Creates the Southern California Veterans Cemetery Perpetual Maintenance Fund — all funds received would be allocated for the cemetery’s maintenance.
4. Authorizes the cemetery administrator to accept donations of personal property to be used for the maintenance/beautification of the cemetery.
According to the National Cemetery Administration, the closest regional option for Orange County veterans is the Riverside Veterans Cemetery, which offers neither a convenient location nor a long-term solution for the estimated 133,000 Orange County veterans and their families.
California is home to more veterans than any other state. Despite the fact that Orange County is also home to Army, Navy, and Marine bases, Orange County has been identified as the state’s largest county without a veteran’s cemetery. There is clear need, evidence, and community desire for establishing a veteran’s cemetery within Orange County.
Growing County Support for a California State Veterans Cemetery in Orange County
Since the time in January when AB 1453 was introduced, other Orange County government leaders have added their support. Local Orange County elected state leaders have added their support for the bill calling for a Southern California State Veterans Cemetery in Orange County including Assembly Members Tom Daly (AD-69), Alan Mansoor (AD-74) and Don Wagner (AD-68) and Senate Members (Lou Correa (SD-34) and Mimi Walters (SD-37)
In March, the City of Irvine took the lead in supporting the development of a Southern California Veterans in Orange County. Long time Council Member Larry Agran, working in close cooperation with Assembly Member Quirk-Silva and OCVMP committee chair Bill Cook, introduced and obtained passage of a resolution to both support AB 1453 and call for the establishment of the Southern California Veterans Cemetery in Orange County, express the City’s strong interest in providing at least 100 acres of land at the Orange County Great Park (formerly MCAS El Toro) and the formation of a site selection committee of interested parties to see if a suitable location is feasible in and around the Great Park location. . . .
Next Action Steps
The topic of the Southern California State Veterans Cemetery in Orange County again will be on the agenda of the Irvine City Council on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. The planned discussion item will be the formation of a Site Selection Committee to review possible locations in and around the Orange County Great Park and the former MCAS El Toro land. The OCVMP committee is urging all interested Orange County veterans to attend this April 22 City Council meeting which normally begins at 5:00 P.M. Veterans are encouraged to wear their patches, ribbons and other appropriate ceremonial attire. The Irvine City Hall is located at 1 Civic Center Plaza, Irvine (corner of Alton Parkway & Harvard).
If you agree that our Orange County veterans deserve a final resting place close to their families and loved ones, and that a portion of the Great Park in Irvine, which was once the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, would be an altogether fitting and proper location for this Orange County Veterans Cemetery, as well as a lasting memorial to the Great Park’s military heritage, please attend the Irvine City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 22, to show your support.