CARIBOU, Maine — A sizable allocation from the Department of Veterans Affairs will expand the Northern Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery and allow more veterans to be buried closer to home.
U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe joined with U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud earlier this week to announce funding for the expansion of two veterans cemeteries in Maine. The Caribou cemetery received a $326,267 grant, and the Springvale State Veterans Cemetery received a $240,634 grant.
Both grants will reimburse the state 100 percent of the cost associated with these two projects.
The cemetery is located on a 20-acre parcel off Lombard Road and was dedicated in June 2003. The $3 million project was in the works for three years. John and Joyce Noble of Caribou donated the land. Before the cemetery was established, northern Maine veterans had to be buried in Augusta, a five-hour drive for friends and family.
Dale McGlinn, vice chairman of the NMVC Corp. executive board, said Friday the grant will pay for the establishment of three more columbarium walls, which will provide more above-ground niches for cremated remains.
McGlinn said three walls were established when the cemetery was built, and fundraisers were conducted for three more.
McGlinn estimated that 75 percent of the interments at the cemetery are cremains, and the aboveground niches can be used for burial year-round.
“This is going to help us a great deal,” he said Friday.
The veterans cemetery in Caribou has the capacity for more than 10,000 full-body burials and more than 1,500 plots for cremains, according to its Web site. The number of burial sites in use at the cemetery could not be ascertained Friday because state offices were closed for a mandated shutdown day.
Michaud said in a written statement that he was pleased the funding would be released.
“This funding will help improve and expand the final resting place of Maine’s honorable veterans,” said Michaud. “It will also allow more visitors to come and pay their respects to the heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
The senators agreed.
“This is wonderful news for Maine’s veterans,” said Snowe and Collins. “The expansion of these cemeteries will allow veterans from throughout Maine with the opportunity to make their final resting place closer to home and their families. We believe that our veterans and their families deserve to be closer to one another.”
At this point, there are three Maine veterans cemeteries, two in Augusta and the other in Caribou.
Last year, the VA announced a $4.2 million grant to establish the Southern Maine Veterans Cemetery in Springvale.
Construction in Caribou should be completed in the fall.