ANAHEIM HILLS, Calif.—Officials and veterans gathered July 1 to celebrate the claiming of land for a controversial veterans cemetery in Anaheim Hills.
“Today Anaheim is open to veterans,” said Anaheim Councilman Trevor O’Neil. “I’m bringing a resolution to Anaheim City Council later this month to support the veterans cemetery and commit the city of Anaheim [to a] proactive role in helping to bring this project to fruition.”
The announcement came about a week after plans to build the memorial grounds in Irvine fizzled. Following years of reports and studies, Irvine City Council on June 22 took no action to construct a Veteran’s Memorial Park and Cemetery at the Orange County Great Park.
The lack of action left the project in limbo until now.
“This is a long time coming and it is about time,” Congresswoman Young Kim said in a statement. “Building a veteran cemetery to honor veterans who served our country has been an issue. Our veterans deserve a resting place in Orange County that honors their sacrifice.”
County government officials, along with the Veterans Alliance of Orange County, joined at the site to celebrate.
Supervisor Andrew Do expressed his appreciation for those that worked year after year to get the project moving.
“Forty-six years ago, there was a military van that came to my house, my family home in Vietnam, to say, ‘You need to get up, you’re about to lose your freedom,’” Do said. “Now 45 years later to be a part of the establishment of the first veteran’s cemetery here in Orange County is a privilege that’s beyond description for me.”
A Controversial History
District Attorney and former Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer spoke on the behalf of the accomplishment while reflecting on his time as a policymaker, expressing his frustrations when the county development wasn’t going through.
“I was incredibly frustrated to watch the fact that this county that grew El Toro and Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin, and Los Alamitos, and Camp Pendleton to the South, could not find a solution to a veteran cemetery as one of the most respected, dedicated veterans and military communities that has ever sent individuals overseas to fight for this community,” Spitzer said. “This county has benefited, but the whole world and the country have benefited from Orange County, California, but we couldn’t solve that problem.
“These men and women have fought for our country, have gone overseas, have left their families, have not been there to watch their children being raised … and we can’t bury them with dignity and respect.”
In acknowledging that the cemetery would no longer be located at the El Toro Base in Irvine, Supervisor Don Wagner pleaded with Irvine councilmembers Mike Carroll and Tammy Kim to allow for pieces of El Toro to be brought to Anaheim Hills.
“As you build that Great Park, you are going to rip up the runway, you are going to be taking down some of those buildings. They will be recycled. … Is it possible that we bring some of that material, incorporate that material into some of the buildings and the monuments? Let’s bring El Toro to our veterans,” Wagner said.
Irvine Councilwoman Tammy Kim expressed her excitement and support for the new grounds.
“As the newest person elected for the Irvine City Council, I wasn’t involved in a lot of the politics that have happened in the last 10 to 15 years over the cemetery,” Kim told The Epoch Times. “I’m so happy to see that we’ve finally allowed Anaheim to pursue the site.”
Veterans in attendance said they look forward to what’s to come, stating that the cemetery is “overdue.”
Orange County resident David Lockwood, who served in the Vietnam Veteran war, said he fought alongside friends who didn’t make it home.
“This is the place they should be, not someplace 50 miles away,” he said.
Orange County is home to more than 100,000 veterans, and after years of controversy with the city of Irvine, 280 acres of land between the 91 freeway and 241 toll road in Anaheim Hills were officially claimed.
Officials are still identifying sources of funding for the project, but Wagner said he hoped ground would be broken on the cemetery by the end of the year.