Legislature approves plan for new Orange County veterans cemetery

Legislature approves plan for new Orange County veterans cemetery
Two American flags blow in the wind above the grave of a veteran at Riverside National Cemetery. The Legislature approved Monday a plan for a new veterans cemetery in Orange County. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

A proposal to build a new veterans cemetery in Orange County cleared the Legislature on Monday and now awaits Gov. Jerry Brown's approval.

 The measure by Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) would direct the state Department of Veterans Affairs to build a new cemetery in Irvine. The proposed site, on the former U.S. Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, would serve the veteran populations of Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties.

A group of Orange County veterans, led by American Legion Chaplain Bill Cook, have been pushing for the new cemetery since 1999.

Describing Cook's advocacy, Quirk-Silva said he often made the point that "this is where we left -- from the El Toro Marine base. Many of us came home, but many of our fellow veterans have not come home. So the historical significance really means a lot."

Assemblyman Donald P. Wagner (R-Irvine), in whose district the cemetery would be located, noted that the Irvine City Council has already given the plan its blessing. 

"They picked a great site," Wagner said.

The Assembly gave the bill, AB 1453, its final legislative approval Monday afternoon on a 77-0 vote.

If Brown signs the bill, the next step would be applying to the federal government for construction funds. Quirk-Silva said that application could be submitted as early as next July.

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