CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Big changes are coming for Corpus Christi's Coastal Bend State Veterans Cemetery.
The cemetery which serves the final resting place for more thousands of local veterans will be under new management.
Starting Friday, Nueces County takes over operations at the cemetery, and the hope is that local control will take a good operation and make it that much better.
“We're here to honor veterans,” said Tony Acevedo. “Veterans honoring veterans.”
There have been more than 3,000 veteran funerals at the Coastal Bend State Veterans Cemetery since it opened in 2011. One constant has been the Memorial Detachment Honor Guard.
“We're all veterans and we all have something in our heart that makes us go that extra step,” said Acevedo.
Acevedo, a Vietnam Veteran, commands the Honor Guard. He's excited to see Nueces Co. assume responsibility for the hallowed ground.
“We welcome anything that's good for our cemetery,” Acevedo said.
The agreement is the result of more than two years of discussions between the county and the Texas General Land Office.
“We're going to have local control, which will allow us to have influence over how we would like to see the operations be strengthened,” said Nueces Co. Judge Barbara Canales.
Canales says the county's goal is to have the cemetery recognized as a National Shrine by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Cemetery Administration. That starts with having veterans run the cemetery, starting at the top, with the county's Veterans Services Officer, J.J. de la Cerda.
“In order to honor that commitment, you have to have people who have that understanding,” Canales said.
Before going to work for the county, de la Cerda managed the cemetery. Acevedo knows him well and is happy to see de la Cerda back in charge.
“I know the man, what kind of man he is, he's still serving our community,” Acevedo said.
Acevedo is also confident the cemetery will thrive under local control.
“With our support, our community's support, they'll do good,” said Acevedo. “I guarantee it.”
So who is eligible to be buried at the cemetery? Any member of the U.S. Armed Forces who died on active duty and veterans who received a discharge other than dishonorable. Also, spouses and children who died as dependents can be buried there as well. National Guard members and Reservists can only be buried there if they died on active duty or as a result of training.
Canales says the county will hold a ceremony to mark the changeover, likely in November.