By Heather Siegel, Photos courtesy National Cemetery, Administration
San Diego veterans who want to use their VA benefit to fulfill their final wishes have benefited from a relatively new national cemetery in north San Diego.
Choosing a burial Miramar National Cemetery can reduce the economic burden of a traditional funeral up to $10,000. Plus, being able to visit one’s loved ones locally helps bring closure and peace to one’s family.
“Nothing can outweigh the sense of relief that local vets share that a national cemetery is close to home, in fact, right in the middle of it,” said Colonel Maxwell Spencer Colon, Retired, Past State Commander, San Diego Jewish War Veterans of the USA.
Prior to the opening of the Miramar National Cemetery in 2010, grieving military families who wanted a flag-draped casket had to choose Riverside National Cemetery to avoid the cost of a plot, a vault liner, opening and closing of the grave, and a headstone. All of these services are now available locally at Miramar National Cemetery, free to qualified veterans.
Local veterans can make better choices about cremation not based solely on economics. “San Diego has always had the one of the highest percentages of cremation rates in the country,” said H. W. “Skipper” Ragsdale III, President, California Funeral Directors Association and owner of the Anderson-Ragsdale Mortuary in San Diego. “Miramar National Cemetery has made a significant difference in people’s choices and the lives of their loved ones. Full burial with a casket in a private cemetery had put them at an economic hardship.”
When arranging for the burial of a casket or urn, families can personalize the veteran’s headstone, marker or niche cover with an inscription and can choose from sixty different religious affiliation symbols.
Privates and generals are interred side-by-side. Spouses are eligible for burial in the national cemetery even if the spouse pre-deceases the veteran. If both spouses are veterans, they are eligible for two plots, two headstones and arrangements can be made to set aside an adjoining plot.
Families who do want the remains of their loved ones cremated can chose to be interred at Riverside or Fort Rosecrans National Cemeteries, as well as Miramar National Cemetery. “I chose cremation for my beloved departed wife because it was less money and more environmentally friendly,” said Bruce Radder, a World War II Merchant Marine Veteran who’s planning to visit Washington, DC, on the Honor Flight next month. “It just suits me better and I’m already set to be interred next to Shirley.”
In an exclusive interview, Director Douglas Ledbetter, US Air Force veteran, who has managed both Miramar and Fort Rosecrans National Cemeteries since August 2013, advised veterans interested in interment at a national cemetery: “Keep your discharge papers handy and share your desires with your loved ones. Start the conversation.
Chris Erbe, Kristen Parker and James Ruester of the National Cemetery Administration contributed to this article.