Groundbreaking for vets cemetery set Monday

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 7, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

The more than 150,000 veterans living in Hampton Roads and surrounding areas will have a final resting spot by the middle of next year.

Gov. Mark Warner and U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, along with several other city, state and federal officials, will be in Suffolk at 11 a.m. Monday for the long-awaited groundbreaking of the Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery.

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Approximately 300 veterans, residents and invited guests are expected to turn out for the ceremony at the 76-acre site at the intersection of Lake Prince Drive and Milners Road. Gen. John &uot;Jack&uot; Nicholson, under secretary for memorial affairs, and Colbert L. Boyd, chief deputy commissioner for veterans service, will also attend.

Work will get under way immediately on the first phase of the project, which calls for the site clearing and grading of approximately 26 acres, the creation of 10,000 ground burial plots, 2,100 in-ground plots for interred cremains, and 1,920 columbarium niches for the above-ground interment of ashes.

Administrative and utility equipment buildings will also be constructed in the first phase.

Groundbreaking on the project comes almost seven years after the late Al Horton, retired from the US Navy and civil service, first began his grass-roots efforts to bring a new veterans cemetery to Hampton Roads.

That’s when Horton, then a Chesapeake resident in his late 60s, and his wife (now deceased) began looking for plots in the area, said their son, Keith Horton of Suffolk.

&uot;He wanted to be buried in a veterans cemetery…and that is when he became aware the closest one that had available space was in Amelia County,&uot; said Horton. &uot;That was more than 150 miles away.&uot;

And even though the 127-acre cemetery in Amelia just opened in 1997, space already is becoming increasingly limited, Horton said. The veterans cemetery in Hampton had been full since the mid-1990s.

When Horton realized that the local veterans cemetery in Hampton had no space, he began an extensive paper trail that started with a letter to Sen. John Warner, R-Va. At his advice, Horton formed an ad-hoc committee to evaluate the need and began aggressively campaigning to win the support of state legislators.

Sadly, Horton died last fall, ironically while at his computer writing a letter related to the status of the cemetery.

But he will have his final wish honored once construction on the first phase is complete, Horton said. He plans to have his parents re-interred at the cemetery.

&uot;He wanted to be buried in a veterans cemetery,&uot; Horton said. &uot;We are going to make that happen.&uot;