After gathering input for several months, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has announced the national cemetery under construction in Harshaw has been named.
The burial ground is to be called Northwoods National Cemetery, the agency announced July 17.
The site is 6 acres in size and, according to the National Cemetery Administration - a directorate of the VA - "it will serve the needs of more than 38,000 veterans, spouses and eligible children within a 75-mile radius of nearby Rhinelander."
The need for the cemetery was established in 2012 when the NCA determined the Harshaw site across from Union Grove Cemetery on Lakewood Road to be one of eight sites in a "rural initiative" program.
In October 2015, 6 acres of land was purchased by the NCA at a cost of approximately $25,000. Construction of the cemetery began last summer.
In the same official notice, the name of another rural cemetery was announced.
The Snake River Canyon National Cemetery will be located in Buhl, Idaho.
"We are pleased to expand burial services to veterans and their families in these two states," VA secretary Robert Wilkie said in a press release. "These cemeteries will help us reach veterans in the rural parts of Wisconsin and Idaho who have not previously been served by a burial option."
The closest state government option for veterans in this part of Wisconsin is the Central Wisconsin Veterans Cemetery in King, 114 miles from Harshaw. For those in Idaho, the closest location is the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery in Boise, 131 miles from Buhl.
Les Melnyk, a spokesman for the NCA, told The Lakeland Times on July 19, construction of the Northwoods National Cemetery is still scheduled to be completed in the fall.
"When we do the first interment will depend on exactly when it's finished and I think there's a challenge doing interments if there's been a hard freeze," he said. "If that's the case, the first interments might have to wait until spring. That's weather dependent."
Even so, Melnyk is fairly certain the cemetery will be open and interments will begin before its official dedication in the spring of 2020.
"We don't like to make the families of veterans wait," he said. Regarding the dedication itself, Melnyk said it will be a "fairly big event," and will likely including a couple of members of Congress.
"We want people in the surrounding communities to come on out and be a part of that dedication ceremony," he said.
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