Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Ernest West stood proud Friday beside the statue of his likeness that stands tall on the grounds of the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery North East.
Hundreds of people gathered to see the much-anticipated $6 million cemetery that will offer a final resting place for those who serve their country. The statue was unveiled during a dedication ceremony.
“This is a glorious day the Lord has made to honor our vets, “said Senator Robin Webb, who served as one of the guest speakers at the ceremony. “This site is important to me. It is the best use of our money, and I have no apologies.”
Webb said the project was a perfect example of when federal, state and local officials work together.
Pastor Clell Lucas and his wife Bonnie recently received their invitation to be buried at the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery. “I wanted to buried on my family cemetery and she wanted to be buried by her mom and dad,” Lucas told Tuesday. But now we have decided to be together at this wonderful place. I think the cemetery is fantastic. I’m so glad that our legislatures pulled together to get something so great for our area.”
As an Army veteran, Lucas said he is proud to have served his country and was willing to die to protect the freedom of others. ” You never know who you are sitting next to whether you are in a restaurant or anywhere,” “You have no clue what they might have gone through to protect our country. “
Gov. Steve Beshear also spoke at the ceremony and said the cemetery is the fourth of its kind in the state with a fifth on the way.
”There will be a time when a cemetery of this kind will be available within 75 miles of every Kentucky family,” the governor said. “We owe these service men and women the peace of having a final resting place in their honor,” Beshear told those attending. “I am just so proud to be a part of this and proud of our veterans who deserve this cemetery.”
The $6,187,799 project was made possible through a construction grant from the United States Department of Veterans Affair.
Congressman Geoff Davis addressed the crowd and told of the dangers faced when serving the military. ”Some didn’t even ask to join,” he said. “They got a letter in the mail that began with “Congratulations.”
Our protection of freedom is dangerous. But never forget that every service member is important and we stand here very proud to honor each and everyone of you and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.”
West was drafted into the Army in 1950 to serve the Korean War with the 2nd Squad, 3rd Platoon, Company L, 3rd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment 25th Infantry Division. The Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest honor in the military and must be signed by the president.
The cemetery will officially open Oct. 1 to begin burials.