The Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis should be able to accommodate veterans and their families for the next 100 years after the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Cemetery Administration recently acquired 181 acres for expansion.
The land acquisition was announced April 11. Before that, the cemetery consisted of 105.90 acres, 96 percent of which is already developed. The Bureau of Land Management, an agency within the Department of the Interior, transferred the land to the VA in accordance with Public Law 115-175, the Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act, which was signed into law in 2018.
"Expanding Black Hills National Cemetery will ensure access to dignified ... burial options to veterans and their families well into the future,” said Randy Reeves, Veterans Affairs Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs. “We will continue to establish new national cemeteries while maintaining existing national cemeteries, with the goal of providing 95 percent of veterans with access to a burial option in a VA national, state or tribal veterans cemetery within 75 miles of their home.”
More than 29,000 veterans, spouses and eligible family members are interred at Black Hills National Cemetery. The cemetery's notable residents include Ellsworth Air Force Base namesake Brigadier Gen. Richard E. Ellsworth, Sen. Francis H. Case, and Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Charles Windolph.
The Black Hills National Cemetery also is the final resting place for the only two Lakota Code Talkers buried in VA national cemeteries, John Bear King and Clarence Eugene Wolf Guts. Both served in the Pacific Theater during World War II and both posthumously received the Congressional Silver Medal.
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Burial in Black Hills National Cemetery or other VA national cemeteries is open to all members of the armed forces who have met a minimum active duty service requirement and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. A veteran's spouse, widow or widower, minor dependent children and under certain conditions, unmarried adult children with disabilities, may also be eligible for burial. Eligible spouses and children may be buried even if they predecease the veteran. Members of the reserve components of the armed forces might also be eligible for burial.
The VA operates 136 national cemeteries and 33 soldiers’ lots and monument sites in 40 states and Puerto Rico. The VA also provides headstones, markers or medallions to veterans who are not buried in national cemeteries to commemorate their service.
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