Luján, Heinrich Introduce Legislation to Better Honor National Heroes at Santa Fe National Cemetery
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) introduced legislation to honor and commemorate U.S. veterans with dignity and respect. The New Mexico Veteran Burial Dignity and Honor Act will repeal a 1999 provision that allowed for the use of flat gravestones at the Santa Fe National Cemetery and replace the flat markers with upright markers. While flat markers do not lessen the stature of a national cemetery, upright gravestones serve as a more fitting tribute and will provide a uniform look throughout the Cemetery.
This past Memorial Day, Senator Luján visited the Santa Fe National Cemetery and gave remarks commemorating the nearly 70,000 veterans and family members buried there. Since 1875, the Santa Fe National Cemetery has been the final resting place of veterans and family members from New Mexico. In 1999, the Cemetery began using flat grave markers instead of the traditional upright grave markers for any veterans laid to rest along the eastern side of the cemetery. This change sparked opposition from veterans and members of the community who believe it diminished the honor and reverence owed to veterans. This legislation repeals the 1999 provision that allowed for the use of flat markers on the eastern ridge of the Santa Fe National Cemetery. The bill also requires the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to replace these flat markers with upright ones over the next five years. The men and women, who devoted their lives to the service of their country, deserve this distinction.
“New Mexico has a proud legacy of service and it’s our duty to honor and commemorate our veterans and their families,” said Senator Luján. “On my recent visit to the Santa Fe National Cemetery, I was proud to stand alongside veterans and families in remembering the brave New Mexicans, who fought for freedom and chose Santa Fe as their final resting place. This legislation reinforces the Santa Fe National Cemetery’s stature as a national shrine and fixes an inequity created by the 1999 provision that required a small percentage of veterans buried in the Cemetery to have flat headstones.”
“New Mexico’s fallen heroes deserve our full respect and honor. That includes a final resting place with the traditional, upright grave markers that are synonymous with all of our national cemeteries—from Arlington to Santa Fe,” said Senator Heinrich. “I am proud to stand with New Mexico’s veterans and military families to restore this tradition for the men and women laid to rest in Santa Fe who answered our nation’s call to duty.”
Full text of the bill is available HERE.