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Veterans and local officials unfurl ‘Flag One’ at proposed site of controversial veterans cemetery

Veterans and local city officials join to unfurl "Flag One" for the planned veterans cemetery in Anaheim Hills.
Veterans and local city officials join to unfurl “Flag One” for the planned veterans cemetery in Anaheim Hills.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)
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Following about a decade of contentious debate and political inaction, Orange County officials and veterans appear to be moving forward with a veterans cemetery in Anaheim Hills.

During a ceremonial groundbreaking on Wednesday, they unfurled a massive 30-foot-by-60-foot American flag, called “Flag One,” that will tower over the proposed cemetery site.

For about a decade, veterans fought to have the cemetery constructed in Irvine, but local politicians couldn’t agree on where it should be placed.

Veterans and local city officials carry "Flag One" at the proposed veteran's cemetery site in Anaheim Hills.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

One of the areas considered in Irvine, called the ARDA site, was backed by some residents and former Irvine mayor and current Councilman Larry Agran. Other officials, residents and veterans groups favored the construction of the cemetery on a piece of land in the Great Park that was once destined to be a golf course. Both sites were part of the now-defunct El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.

The ARDA site was chosen by officials in 2014. But in 2017, another site was proposed, with FivePoint offering a land-swap deal that was eventually voted down by Irvine residents in the 2018 primary elections.

Later, the council voted to build the cemetery on land that was slated to be a golf course in the Great Park.

Veterans and officials gather for a photo during a groundbreaking at the proposed veteran cemetery site in Anaheim Hills.
Veterans and officials gather for a photo during a groundbreaking at the proposed veteran cemetery site in Anaheim Hills.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Last year, the council decided to support a citizens’ initiative to zone the 125-acre ARDA site for the cemetery. But after an election and a mayoral change, sentiments shifted on the council. Late last month, all hope of an Irvine-based cemetery seemed lost when, after a lengthy meeting, the Irvine City Council couldn’t come to an agreement.

All 34 Orange County cities have now expressed support for the Anaheim Hills site. The massive support for the site was evidenced at the groundbreaking as all five county supervisors attended along with city representatives.

The Veterans Alliance of Orange County, which has advocated for the cemetery, is in support of the Anaheim Hills site, as are all Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in the county and several American Legion posts.

Veterans and local officials unfurl "Flag One" at the proposed veterans cemetery in Anaheim Hills.
Veterans and local officials unfurl “Flag One” at the proposed veterans cemetery in Anaheim Hills.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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