Orange County Supervisors Fund First Responders Cemetery

By Carol Cassis
Carol Cassis
Carol Cassis
July 7, 2022 Updated: July 7, 2022

SANTA ANA, Calif.—Final taps will be played for Orange County’s police and firefighters at a special, 10-acre section next to the new Southern California Veterans Cemetery site that soon should be built in Anaheim Hills. It will be the first cemetery in the nation dedicated to first responders.

The Orange County Supervisors unanimously passed item S58D on June 28, allocating $1 million from the discretionary funds of Supervisor Don Wagner of the Third District, which includes Anaheim Hills, for the special site. His original proposal passed the board on March 8.

The Southern California Veterans Cemetery is expected to be built soon after a decade of wrangling in the county and the California Legislature. An assembly bill has been introduced to get the project approved by the state. Orange County currently has no state or federal cemetery for veterans, the closest being Riverside National Cemetery.

“Each day police and fire personnel put their lives in peril to keep every resident of Orange County safe,” Wagner told The Epoch Times. He said the project is “long overdue.”

The grant provides for 200 burial spaces, 100 each for police officers and firefighters, providing a “dignified eternal resting place, and proper respect for their service,” according to a statement from Wagner’s office. Each space includes two plots, the second for a spouse or other loved one.

The location of the Veterans Cemetery itself has been a nightmare of delays. In 2019, the Irvine City Council approved putting it in the city’s Great Park, previously the site of the old Marine Corps Air Station El Toro.

Then discussions stalled, with almost no funding allocated for the project or plans to move forward in construction.

By December of last year, all 34 cities in Orange County agreed to the Anaheim Hills location.

“I’ve been working on this cemetery since my time in the legislature,” said Wagner, a former assemblyman, after the funding passage. “Political games played by opponents of the veterans’ desires forced us to abandon Irvine.”

Wagner, a Republican and former Irvine mayor, also has spearheaded a $20 million contribution from the county to “further demonstrate commitment” to the project. He also received bipartisan support.

Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) sponsored Assembly Bill 1595, which would replace Irvine with Anaheim Hills as the cemetery site. It is co-sponsored by Assemblyman Steven Choi (R-Irvine)—another former Irvine mayor—who represents Anaheim Hills.

The bill passed the Assembly on May 23 and the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on June 28, each without opposition. It’s currently in the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

Quirk-Silva said she hopes the bill can be on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk for his signature by this fall.

Carol Cassis