Omaha National Cemetery might be called something entirely different when it opens for internments in 2016.
A meeting Saturday gathered veterans organization leaders from the area to discuss naming suggestions for the national veterans cemetery that will be located at Schram Road and Highway 50 near Springfield.
Glenn Madderom, the National Cemetery Administration’s chief of cemetery development, led the majority of the meeting and offered some examples to help guide the brainstorming session.
“We have a cemetery in Sturgis (S.D.) that is named Black Hills National Cemetery,” Madderom said. “It’s more identifiable with the region than just calling it Sturgis National Cemetery.”
One difficulty in naming the facility is it will serve the veteran population in Lincoln and eastern Iowa as well as the Omaha metropolitan area.
“The name should be inclusive,” Madderom said.
U.S. Veterans Administration facilities must be named for the geographic area in which they are located, unless Congress passes a specific law to the contrary.
VA guidelines require cemetery names to help to identify the location of the cemetery site, have a broad appeal to the veteran population and make a positive impression through their relation to history, region, community or other notable geographic features.
Cemeteries cannot be named for a person, according to the VA guidelines.
A crowd of nearly 45 people attended the meeting, including representatives of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, AmVets, American Legion Riders, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs, the 40 & 8, Military Officers Association of America, Vietnam Veterans of America and Douglas and Sarpy County Veterans Service Offices.
Many of the leaders of the veterans groups had already discussed naming suggestions with their members after receiving a letter in December from Rep. Lee Terry about the guidelines.
Suggestions made Saturday included Heartland National Cemetery, Heroes of the Heartland National Cemetery, Eastern Nebraska Western Iowa National Cemetery, Fort Crook National Cemetery, Strategic Air Command National Cemetery, Fort Omaha National Cemetery and Eastern Nebraska Great Plains National Cemetery.
The group leaders will now return to their respective posts to seek input from members on which names they prefer. The groups have 60 days to submit their final suggestions, at which point the VA will conduct a three- or four-month internal evaluation.
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki is ultimately is responsible for selecting a name.
Madderom said the organization hopes to have a name for the cemetery by the fall.
The cemetery itself should begin construction in September 2015 and is currently at the midpoint of master planning. A contract for the design/build portion of the project is expected to be awarded in September of this year, pending approval of the project’s funding in the 2014 national budget.
The first phase of the project will include 35 acres of internment area for the first 10 years of burials, as well as all permanent facilities. The rest of the 230-acre property will be built in 10-year increments over the next 200 years.
“We don’t need to build out all of the acres and maintain them all for decades,” Madderom said. “This cemetery is built for the long term, and we have a long-term master plan. It’s built to last 200 years. We will still have veterans and veterans’ needs then.”
Two committal service shelters will be built to hold funeral services. Graveside services will not be safe initially because internments will begin while the rest of the initial construction is still ongoing at the cemetery.
For more information on benefits offered to veterans upon burial and qualifications for burial in a nation cemetery, veterans or their families can visit www.cem.va.gov.