A year ago, ground was broken on the newest - and last - veterans cemetery in Louisiana.
The Southwest Louisiana Veterans Cemetery was opened near the veteran's home in Jennings, and so far 85 people have been buried there: 73 veterans, 11 spouses and 1 dependent child.
Burial in the military-style cemetery is free for qualifying veterans, and a relatively small fee for their spouses and children who die while still a dependent of the veteran's, said Dwayne Guidry, director of the facility. The area the cemetery covers stretches to Beaumont, down to the Gulf, east to Breaux Bridge and north toward Leesville.
The pandemic delayed the first interment until May, and it was June before the first burial could occur with the military honors that are offered to all veterans buried there, Guidry said. Guidry, who works with families and funeral homes to arrange the burials, still remembers the names of the first veteran buried there, and the first veteran buried with military honors.
"Our cemetery resembles all veterans' cemeteries. Most people, when they think of veterans' cemeteries, they think of Arlington National Cemetery. We follow the same guidelines as Arlington National Cemetery," Guidry says. "We take pride in keeping it up. I have a crew of four full-time employees, and it's their job to maintain our facility in as pristine as condition as possible."
Guidry, who is a veteran himself, says he considers it "an honor" to help veterans and their families to arrange for burial in the cemetery.
The 20-acre facility offers in-ground casket burial, in-ground cremains burial and a mausoleum. If a veteran was buried elsewhere, Guidry can work with a funeral home to move the remains to this cemetery, if the family wants that.
The cemetery was built by the federal VA, but is managed by the state veteran's agency. Families can contact the cemetery when a veteran dies, or veterans can arrange to be buried there in advance by completing a pre-need application.
If you want more information about the cemetery, or how to apply for burial there, you can find it here. The cemetery also has a Facebook page with other information, you can see it here. You can call them at 337 246-7094; office hours are 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can visit the cemetery anytime during daylight hours.