A cemetery Orange County officials want to build using sprawling land on Anaheim’s eastern end could be history making, with space included for those who fought alongside American forces in Vietnam and Korea.
The soldiers who supported the U.S. military were struggling for freedom and democracy, and they should be afforded respect, said Supervisor Andrew Do, who led the county supervisors on Tuesday, March 26, in designating 10 percent of the future cemetery toward a final resting place for members of the military or government of allied forces.
Irvine city leaders have discussed a potential veterans cemetery for several years, but have struggled to reach consensus on a location.
Whatever the outcome of an official state cemetery, Do said the need continues to grow as veterans of the Vietnam and Korean wars – regardless of their motherland – are a dwindling group.
“I didn’t want to wait to much longer or wait for Irvine,” Do said. “Both of these populations will be long gone.”
Staff writer Jeong Park contributed to this report.
“It was more of a universal conflict against communism,” Do said. “We fought together, not just as Americans and Vietnamese, but as fellow compatriots.”
The county is transferring 283 acres near the junction of the 91 and 241 freeways to the Orange County Cemetery District – it will be the fourth cemetery in the district and will alleviate a pressing shortage of public burial space. A section of the cemetery was already planned for American military veterans.
Do said he’s unaware of any military cemetery in the country honoring allied troops, so Orange County’s could be the first.
“This cemetery will greatly commemorate the Korea-U.S. relationship and will be a comfort to our Korean veterans,” said James Lee, president of the Korean Veterans Association’s Southwest Region. He was speaking in Korean. “We are proud to lay to rest in the United States as a Korean veteran.”
Orange County alone is home to more than 750 Korean veterans who fought in the Korean or Vietnam wars, he said. Some have considered returning to South Korea to be buried in the country’s national cemeteries, but many want to stay here close to their families – “This is great news for our veterans,” Lee said.
An initial phase of 10 acres with buildings for administration, cremations and other services would cost an estimated $25 million, Do said. Cemetery district General Manager Tim Deutsch said he hopes to break ground on the civilian portion within five years.
The site is too close to Riverside National Cemetery to qualify for federal designation as a veterans cemetery, Do said, and it’s unclear whether the county will choose to contend with Irvine for a proposed state-managed veterans cemetery.