The Kansas Veterans’ Cemetery at Fort Dodge earned a prestigious honor this week -an "Excellence of Appearance Award."
Cemetery Manager Heidi Goff said this is the first time the cemetery has been given the award, but it was only their second formal inspection by the National Cemetery Administration (NCA).
According to Goff, the inspections take place every other year. No inspections are done for a few years after a cemetery first opens which gives each location adequate time to get established.
Things taken into consideration for the award include headstone alignment and level grave sites. The NCA also makes sure there are no bare spots in the cemetery or drainage problems.
"The appearance of the cemetery is what is most important," Goff said.
In fact, the NCA requires all cemeteries be 90 percent weed free. And since there are only two maintenance workers at the Kansas Veterans’ Cemetery at Fort Dodge, meeting NCA stipulations is quite an accomplishment.
Most impressive though, is the Fort Dodge location's achievement on a national level, in conjunction with the other Kansas veteran's cemeteries. Kansas’ four veterans’ cemeteries, located in WaKeeney, Winfield, Fort Riley, and Fort Dodge, all received the “Excellence of Appearance Award.”
"This is the first time in the history of state operated cemeteries that all of a state's cemeteries have received this high of an award," Goff said.
To honor the occasion, Joshua de Leon, director of the Veterans Cemetery Grants Service and the National Cemetery Administration, personally presented representatives from each cemetery with a plaque.
“We are proud to be here today to present all four Kansas State Veterans’ Cemeteries with the Excellence of Appearance Award. Although some of us may make distinctions between national military, state, and tribal cemeteries, veterans do not. They expect the same high standards of appearance and service wherever they choose to be laid to rest. The National Cemetery Administration is proud to continue the strong partnership we share with the state of Kansas in serving veterans,” de Leon said during the presentation.
The state received $9.3 million from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Cemetery Grants Service and National Cemetery Administration, for the construction of the four State Veterans’ Cemeteries. In 2002, the Kansas Veterans’ Cemetery at Fort Dodge was dedicated and opened, and in 2004, the Kansas Veterans’ Cemeteries at WaKeeney and Winfield were dedicated and opened. In 2009, the Kansas Veterans’ Cemetery at Fort Riley was dedicated and opened.
“Hopefully, this gives veterans and their dependents peace of mind knowing that their loved ones have been laid to rest at a place of dignity and honor, where the strive for excellence in all areas is the standard,” KCVA Cemetery Program Director Kafer Peele said in a press release.