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Voice to Congress

Preserve a historic naval cemetery: Support Mare Island

The Issue
The Mare Island Naval Cemetery (MINC) is the oldest military cemetery on the west coast. It is the final resting place for 996 of our country's heroes, some of whom fought in the War of 1812. Designated as a National Historic Landmark, three Congressional Medal of Honor recipients are buried there, as is Anna Key Turner, daughter of Francis Scott Key, and her husband, who fought in the War of 1812. However, the cemetery, which is currently managed by the cash-strapped City of Vallejo, CA, has fallen into an unacceptable state of disrepair, including cracked and fallen headstones.

How did this happen? PUBLIC LAW 93-43 dated June 18, 1973 mandated that jurisdiction over naval cemeteries - including MINC - be immediately transferred from the Department of the Navy to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). However, that law was ignored by the Navy and the VA in 1973 and during the Base Realignment and Closure process in 1993. The federal government left MINC behind and did not provide any funding to restore it to honorable conditions nor any support for its immense ongoing maintenance. Maintenance today is done by a handful of volunteers.
This historic site should be restored and preserved. 

The Solution
Congressman Mike Thompson (CA-5) has authored a bill, H.R. 5588, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to seek to enter into an agreement with the City of Vallejo, California, for the transfer of Mare Island Naval Cemetery. Senator Feinstein has authored a companion Senate bill, S. 2881. This legislation transfers control of the cemetery from the City of Vallejo to the Department of Veterans Affairs' National Cemetery Administration, which will maintain the cemetery as a national shrine. Importantly, the City of Vallejo supports the transfer of the cemetery. The veterans who were laid to rest in this cemetery served our country with honor and distinction, and their final resting place should be maintained with the honor they deserve. As a site controlled by the VA, the cemetery will be preserved and maintained for future generations to visit and reflect upon the service of so many.

There is a clear precedent for Congress directing the Executive Branch to follow existing laws when they have clearly been negligent. Clark Veterans Cemetery in the Philippines was abandoned in 1991. In 2012, H.R.4168 "Caring for the Fallen Act" and S.2320 "Remembering America's Forgotten Veterans Cemetery Act of 2012" were introduced, voted before the year-end recess, and Public Law 112-260 was signed in 2013. That cemetery is now well-maintained and back to conditions deserving of a national shrine.


Why you should take action
Our American Veterans buried in the oldest military cemetery on our west coast deserve as much respect as our Veterans buried in other national cemeteries. Please co-sponsor H.R.5588 or S.2881 as applicable, today, so they can be expedited through the Veterans Affairs committees and passed in 2018. Thank you for supporting our Veterans and our fallen heroes.

Read one of the first local news story on Mare Island

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