After several months of receiving input, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on July 17 announced the official name of the national cemetery under construction in Harshaw.
The Northwoods National Cemetery will be the name of the facility, at the moment six acres in size and according to the National Cemetery Administration — a directorate of the VA — “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, six acres of land was purchased by the NCA for nearly $25,000 and construction of the cemetery began last summer.
In the same official announcement, the naming of another rural cemetery in Idaho was made.
The Snake River Canyon National Cemetery is 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 currently living in those Wisconsin and Idaho rural areas are the Central Wisconsin Veterans Cemetery in King, 114 miles from Harshaw and 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 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,” more than likely including a couple members of Congress.
“We want people in the surrounding communities to come on out and be a part of that dedication ceremony,” he said.
Brian Jopek may be reached via email at [email protected]