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Hon. Mark Udall

Hon. Mark Udall, a Representative in Congress from the State of Colorado

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee on Veterans Affairs, thank you for holding this hearing to discuss the VA National Cemetery Administration’s policies for providing the respectful final resting places that our veterans so deserve.  I regret that a conflict in scheduling makes it impossible for me to attend this field hearing and express my appreciation and concerns in person.

In three weeks, we will honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defending our nation, as we celebrate Memorial Day weekend.  On that weekend, friends and family members of our departed veterans will visit VA cemeteries throughout the country to honor the memory of their loved ones.  Unfortunately, far too many family members will have to travel far too many miles to pay their respects.  Even worse, the long distance that some veterans’ survivors must travel will prevent them from making the trip at all.

It is particularly appropriate that this field hearing is being held in Colorado Springs.  Southern Colorado’s population features one of the highest concentrations of veterans in the nation, yet the vast majority of veterans in southern Colorado are located far outside a 75-mile radius of the nearest VA cemeteries, Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver and Fort Lyon National Cemetery in Bent County.

For nearly a decade, it has been a goal of the Pikes Peak Veterans Cemetery Committee, as well as the Department of Colorado Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Colorado chapters of the American Legion, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Association for Service Disabled Veterans, to bring a National Cemetery to El Paso County.  Last year, my colleague in the Colorado delegation, Representative John Salazar, introduced legislation that would address this issue.  It was my honor to join Ranking Member Lamborn and our fellow Colorado Representatives Ed Perlmutter, Diana DeGette and Marilyn Musgrave in cosponsoring Congressman Salazar’s bill.

That bill, H.R. 1660, passed the House of Representatives unanimously by voice vote, highlighting the support southern Colorado veterans have received from the entire nation for the establishment of a VA cemetery in El Paso County.  Unfortunately, this bill has seen no legislative action in the Senate.  Hopefully, this hearing will raise awareness of the need for a new national cemetery for southern Colorado, so that we can ensure all of our veterans receive the recognition they deserve with a final resting place close to their own communities.

Again, Mr. Chairman and Committee Members, thank you for holding this hearing and addressing the concerns of our nation’s honorable veterans.