Black Hills National Cemetery permanent expansion is in legislative limbo

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Where will our heroes be laid to rest? This is a question Senator John Thune (R-SD) is asking in Washington, as the Black Hills National Cemetery continues to fill up. Thune is pushing legislation in Washington to make sure there is enough space for years to come. He says our veterans deserve this peace of mind. He wants to expand the cemetery by 200 acres to ensure that never happens.

Sen. John Thune (R-SD) says he wants to make sure veterans have burial space for years to come.

“It just makes sure and certain going into the future that there is a place to rest our heroes,” said Thune.

Thune introduced the Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act, recently passed through the Senate. It calls for the Bureau of Land Management to complete a permanent transfer of land to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“With permanence comes certainty and the idea that somehow this might be transferred back from the VA back to the BLM doesn’t make any sense,” said Thune.

Thune’s legislation brings up the reality that as we continue to lose our veterans, the search for more land continues in Black Hills and other national cemeteries.

“The reason that right now there’s so much focus on it is we do have a higher rate of veterans who are passing away,” said Kayda Keleher from Veterans of Foreign Wars.

She says the average veteran is older in age. Some veterans from World War II, Vietnam, Korea and Desert Storm need to make end of life plans, and Keleher says these land transfers help ease their concerns.

“They’re getting ready to pass, to plan for. So why would we want to implement anymore hard come or difficulties in that planning,” said Keleher.

There is companion legislation that passed through the House. Thune says he soon wants to see a combination of the two sent to the president’s desk.