A Place to Honor Veterans

By Susan Burns Photography by Courtesy of Aero Photo September 30, 2011

The Sarasota National Cemetery broke ground in 2008 and buried its first veteran in 2009. More than 4,000 veterans and their family members are buried there now, and every day visitors—100,000 in all last year—bring flowers to rest against the white headstones. Eventually the cemetery (located on 295 acres on S.R. 72, approximately four miles east of I-75) will have 125,000 to 150,000 gravesites, making this solemn, peaceful place a major visitor attraction in the region. This photograph shows one third of the property.

The Sarasota National Cemetery

National Cemeteries

The Sarasota National Cemetery is one of 131 national cemeteries around the country. Only 100 are still active and accepting burials. Florida has seven national cemeteries, with two more being planned.

The First Phase

Most of the 295 acres are still vacant, but construction of 4,400 gravesites on 10 acres has been finished. By July 2012, an additional 27,538 burial sites will be completed.

The Second Phase

Started in January 2010, this phase covers 100 acres and includes the construction of an administration and public information complex with an electronic gravesite locator, funeral service shelters and a memorial wall, roads and landscaping.

Ceremonial and Enhancement Area

Sarasota's The Patterson Foundation is funding a $5.5 million, 1.77-acre area with shaded seating for 2,590 people, covered rostrum, gardens and outdoor sculptures, a first for any national cemetery. It’s also the first example of a private foundation funding enhancements, and Veterans Affairs and The Patterson Foundation hope it will be replicated across the country. Construction will begin summer 2012 and will be completed spring 2013.

A Region of Veterans

To qualify as a national cemetery, 80,000 veterans must live within a 75-mile radius of the site. Approximately 90,000 veterans live in Florida’s 13th Congressional District; 400,000 live in a 75-square-mile region around the cemetery.

When to visit

The Sarasota Memorial Cemetery is open every day, sunrise to sunset.

Who can be buried there

Any veteran, his or her spouse and eligible dependents. Veterans and their families may select any cemetery where gravesites are available, and there is no charge for burials.

Number of burials

About 115 people a month are buried at the Sarasota National Cemetery; 5,000 people a month visit the memorial.

The Intention

The V.A. and The Patterson Foundation hope that the cemetery becomes a place not just for burials and holidays, but that its facilities will attract visitors who may not have a loved one buried on the grounds but will be moved to remember those who served their country.

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