State budget has no funds for Goldsboro veterans' cemetery

Posted June 26

— In planning the $23 billion state budget, lawmakers left out money for maintenance and jobs at the new Eastern Carolina State Veterans Cemetery in Goldsboro, an omission that could force the state's newest resting place for veterans to close.

If that happens, the state could owe money – it could have to pay back the $5 million federal grant used to build the facility.

The North Carolina Department of Military and Veterans Affairs requested $200,000 for maintenance of the cemetery, but the legislature allotted none and eliminated funding for five jobs at the site.

The cemetery, dedicated less than two years ago, currently has 264 graves, with a capacity of nearly 6,500. There are more than 400 families who have pre-registered to have a veteran laid to rest there.

"We are treating this as an emergency that requires immediate attention," agency secretary Larry Hall said.

Families like those of Lee Lambeth are worried the cemetery gates will be locked, leaving them without a way to visit their departed loved ones.

Michelle Mooring said that, while a shutdown would sadden her, it would anger her father.

"He believed very deeply in his country. He was a very proud American," she said. "He believed in fighting for what was right, and he believed in family.

"My dad was very outspoken. He would have been angry. He would have been livid."

George Hicks, who buried his father last year, was just confused by the legislature's action.

"I don't understand why they didn't fund it," Hicks said. "They knew the cemetery was here. It's no big secret."

Hall, too, questioned the motive behind the cut. "I don't think it's a lack of resources, I think it's a lack of determination," he said.

While Gov. Roy Cooper has promised to veto the budget, the legislature has the votes to override him. The budget would take effect July 1, meaning the cemetery could be closed by the weekend.

"They are told the whole time they are in the service they will be taken care of," Mooring said. "To me, and I'm sure if [my father] were alive, he would say the same thing, this is a slap in the face to them."

Cooper on Monday said he'd look for another way to keep the cemetery open.

"I will look at this provision to see if there is something we can do from an administrative level. Obviously, it's something that hurts a particular community. We want to send the right message to our veterans," he said.

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  • Henry Cooper Jun 26, 5:35 p.m.
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    We can't find 200K in the budget for vets but we can pay 700K in questionable overtime in Hoke County that appears to be abusive and the audit recommended reviewing of time cards.

    This is the kind of stuff that drives the everyday citizen insane.

    We have to many of the same legislators that initially approved this to now having it cut from the budget. I would love to see a news agency go back on this one and do a financial audit of the initial 5 million grant and a review of legislators that have changed this mind since ground breaking less than 3 years ago.

    Did someone they know get a nice contract so at the time it mattered but now with only 200K to spread it is not worth it because your constituents can't get anything more out of this.

    It is sad but my thoughts on this I bet parallel a lot of ordinary folk whose back is being trampled on by both sides.