FORT SMITH, Ark. (KFSM) — The National Cemetery in Fort Smith is at risk of not being able to bury anymore veterans on the property, and one local group is trying to raise funds needed for an expansion of the grounds.
With the land nearing capacity at the National Cemetery in Downtown Fort Smith, Western Arkansas Veterans Coalition is working with Christmas Honors to raise money to add more land, which would keep the cemetery operational for at least 100 more years.
“Billy Dooly and others have done the calculations with Washington and they know for a fact that within 7-10 years our area is going to fill up,” said Philip Merry, Chair and Founder of Christmas Honors.
Merry and Christmas Honors are proud of the National Cemetery for veterans. They say they have a plan to help veterans buy more land to expand the cemetery.
“We’re gonna be one that works ahead of time to make sure we don’t ever run out of space,” Merry said.
The goal is to raise $6 million to buy the local land nearby, a total of 9.5 acres. Land that is ready to be sold for veterans and their families.
For someone like Bill Dooly, a Fort Smith native and veteran who has also served as President of the Chamber of Commerce, it's not only memorable for veterans but it is a staple to Fort Smith.
“When we had industrial prospects in I always made it a point to circle through here and say 'this is our national cemetery' and they’re amazed at this nice cemetery in the middle of town,” Dooly said.
Dooly says the connection to this historic sight is felt everywhere.
“If you talk to anyone off the street or anywhere around and mention national cemetery they have a connection here,” Dooly said.
Merry and Dooly say they are ready to work at fundraising and be granted this land.
“Billy Dooly who worked on the prior expansion here and others like him deserve to go to Heaven knowing that this place is gonna be here for them in the long term,” Merry said.
“I'm not ready to go yet but someday I hope to be buried here,” Dooly said.
Once the veteran's coalition can raise the money the next step is to send it to Washington D.C. for approval by veterans affairs.