The South Carolina Department of Veterans Affairs is in the process of securing land for a new veterans cemetery from a utility.
Santee Cooper would donate 90 acres near its headquarters at Moncks Corner in Berkeley County as part of a plan approved May 24 by the state’s legislative committee that oversees capital improvement projects, reported the state.
South Carolina has one of the largest per capita veteran populations in the nation, Veterans Affairs Secretary William Grimsley said. It has three National Veterans Cemeteries and one State Veterans Cemetery, and is seeking to establish at least one more State Veterans Cemetery within the next decade, Grimsley said.
The state is home to about 400,000 veterans, nearly half of whom are 65 or older, and eight major U.S. military installations. While South Carolina’s veteran population is expected to shrink somewhat in the coming decades, the state is expected to retain a higher concentration of veterans than most, an advantage for earning federal dollars.
One or more new cemeteries would further expand the landscape of veterans services in South Carolina, which recently opened veterans’ retirement homes in Florence and Cherokee counties and has three other long-term care facilities for current veterans.
Over the past year, the Department of Veterans Affairs has searched for potential burial sites across the state and is trying to get land donations in several locations, Grimsley said.
To qualify, a site must be easily accessible, have at least 60 acres of usable land with potential for expansion, be located more than 75 miles from any other veterans’ cemetery, among other conditions.
Once Veterans Affairs owns the land, the agency can apply for a grant from the National Cemetery Administration to cover future development, construction and burial costs, while the state would be responsible for day-to-day operations. , staffing and landscaping, Grimsley said. .
If Veterans Affairs does not receive federal grant approval, ownership reverts to the donor.
Local officials are talking with site owners in Bamberg and Union counties about a possible donation, Grimsley said.
The Moncks Corner site is located along the US Highway 52 bypass overlooking the Tailrace Canal and near the historic sites of Fort Fairlawn, Stony Landing and the ruins of Biggin Church.
Santee Cooper acquired the land in 1991, but later determined he did not need it and authorized its donation to Veterans Affairs.
“Santee Cooper is honored to have the opportunity to play a role in bringing a veterans cemetery to our community,” the public service general counsel wrote to the state’s Joint Bond Review Committee. . The land, which is currently used as a recreation area including an off-road bike path, has been valued at nearly $2.2 million.
More than 45,000 veterans and their family members are buried in South Carolina’s four existing veterans’ cemeteries, located in Beaufort, Florence, Anderson and Fort Jackson in Richland County, Grimsley said.
Beaufort, Florence and Fort Jackson are national cemeteries, accepting veterans from anywhere in the country. State cemeteries restrict burial to South Carolina residents and service members who were stationed in Palmetto State.
In addition to veterans, cemeteries will accept an immediate family member.
South Carolina’s four veterans’ cemeteries are active and accepting new burials, but the national cemeteries in Beaufort and Florence, which were established in the 19th century, are expected to be at capacity within the next two decades, a said Grimsley.
The MJ “Dolly” Cooper Veterans Cemetery in Anderson, which opened in 2007, is expected to remain active in its current configuration until around 2050. Fort Jackson National Cemetery, which opened in 2009, won’t be complete until 2070, he said.