- Associated Press - Monday, January 20, 2014

SLIDELL, La. (AP) - Muddy roads will soon give way to asphalt and bare ground transformed with sod and landscaping as construction of the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Cemetery near Slidell enters its final stages.

The Times-Picayune reported (http://bit.ly/19zc0Ag) the $8 million cemetery is scheduled to open in April. The 75-acre site is on the north side of Interstate 12 next to the Louisiana National Guard’s Camp Villere in St. Tammany Parish.

SBS Construction of Baton Rouge is building the cemetery on property donated by the National Guard. Work began in December 2012.

The administration building is more than halfway completed. Elsewhere, crews continue to work at the entrance to the cemetery and the pavilion where funeral services will be held.


“When we get the landscaping in here, it’s really going to set this thing off,” said project superintendent Greg Gibson of SBS Construction. “It’s going to look really nice.”

Visitors will enter the cemetery on a new road beginning at the entrance to Camp Villere. The administration building will have restrooms open 24-hours a day. In the lobby will be a kiosk where visitors will be able to find the location of a grave, said Robin Keller, communications director for the state Department of Veterans Affairs, which will operate the cemetery.

The cemetery will initially have 2,579 crypts each capable of holding two coffins, 273 gravesites for cremated remains and 480 niches in vaults for cremated remains.

The cemetery is available for qualifying veterans, their spouses and dependent children. There is no charge for burial spots for veterans. A small fee is assessed for spouses and dependent children, cemetery officials said. Veterans receive free headstones or markers as part of their VA benefit, Keller said.

Burial sites cannot be reserved, and other fees for such things as coffins, cremation and embalming are not paid for by the state, Keller said.

Veterans and parish government officials in St. Tammany sought the cemetery for years. The federal Department of Veterans Affairs awarded the state $8.3 million in 2012 to build it cemetery.

The facility will be the third state-operated veterans cemetery. Others are in Leesville and near Shreveport. A fourth cemetery is planned near Monroe.

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Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com