Veterans who want an Orange County cemetery at the Great Park will be marching into tonight's Irvine City Council meeting.
Also parachuting in will be representatives of Five Points, the company whose residential tracts will ring (and help pay for) the in-progress park. The council is scheduled to form a Site Selection Committee for the project, and Five Points wants a voice on the panel.
The Orange County Veterans Commission issued an "article" last month explaining their desire for a memorial park within the Great Park, which is replacing a military installation after all:
Ever since the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro (MCAS El Toro) closed in 1999, a small group of Orange County veterans have dreamed of having veterans' cemetery and memorial for all soldiers who have fought and died defending the United States located on a portion of the former military base. Over the past several months, the group is finally seeing some signs of progress.
In January, Assembly Member Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-CA65), and Chair of the Assembly Committee on Veterans Affairs, introduced Assembly Bill 1453 that would direct the Department of Veterans Affairs to apply to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs State Cemetery Grant Program for the construction of a Southern California Veterans Cemetery in Orange County.
In addition, AB 1453:
* Allows all honorably discharged veterans and their spouses/children eligible for interment in the cemetery–a fee would be imposed for each spouse or child interred in the cemetery.
* Creates the Southern California Veterans Cemetery Master Development Fund–all money received for the design, development, and construction of the cemetery shall be deposited into this fund.
* Creates the Southern California Veterans Cemetery Perpetual Maintenance Fund all funds received would be allocated for the cemetery's maintenance.
* Authorizes the cemetery administrator to accept donations of personal property to be used for the maintenance/beautification of the cemetery.
Background: According to the National Cemetery Administration, the closest regional option for Orange County veterans is the Riverside Veterans Cemetery, which offers neither a convenient location nor a long-term solution for the estimated 133,000 Orange County veterans and their families.
California is home to more veterans than any other state. Despite the fact that Orange County is also home to Army, Navy and Marine bases, Orange County has been identified as the state's largest county without a veteran's cemetery. There is clear need, evidence, and community desire for establishing a veteran's cemetery within Orange County.
Growing county support for a California State Veterans Cemetery in Orange County: Since the time in January when AB 1453 was introduced, other Orange County government leaders have added their support. Local Orange County elected state leaders have added their support for the bill calling for a Southern California State Veterans Cemetery in Orange County including Assembly Members Tom Daly (AD-69), Alan Mansoor (AD-74) and Don Wagner (AD-68) and Senate Members (Lou Correa (SD-34) and Mimi Walters (SD-37).
In March, the City of Irvine took the lead in supporting the development of a Southern California Veterans in Orange County. Long time Council Member Larry Agran, working in close cooperation with Assembly Member Quirk-Silva and OCVMP committee chair Bill Cook, introduced and obtained passage of a resolution to both support AB 1453 and call for the establishment of the Southern California Veterans Cemetery in Orange County, express the City's strong interest in providing at least 100 acres of land at the Orange County Great Park (formerly MCAS El Toro) and the formation of a site selection committee of interested parties to see if a suitable location is feasible in and around the Great Park location.
Other Orange County cities including: Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Cypress, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Los Alamitos, Santa Ana and Villa Park have adopted resolutions of support for AB 1453, which calls for the design, development and construction of a state-owned and state-operated Southern California Veterans Cemetery located in Orange County.
Next action steps: The topic of the Southern California State Veterans Cemetery in Orange County again will be on the agenda of the Irvine City Council on Tuesday, April 22, 2014.
The planned discussion item will be the formation of a Site Selection Committee to review possible locations in and around the Orange County Great Park and the former MCAS El Toro land. The OCVMP committee is urging all interested Orange County veterans to attend this April 22 City Council meeting, which normally begins at 5 p.m. Veterans are encouraged to wear their patches, ribbons and other appropriate ceremonial attire.
The Irvine City Hall is located at 1 Civic Center Plaza, Irvine (corner of Alton Parkway & Harvard).
Speaking of Larry Agran, a local political blogger has made an interesting observation …
"The only sitting member of the Irvine City Council who's worn a United States military uniform is Larry Agran," writes Dan Chmielewski on the Liberal OC. "While Larry still has decades in him, it's entirely possible when he breathes his last, Agran could be buried at the Great Park."