Veterans Win Battle for Bushnell Cemetery Sensitive Land Fails to Sway Cabinet Vote

By Pendleton, Randolph | The Florida Times Union, October 27, 1999 | Go to article overview

Veterans Win Battle for Bushnell Cemetery Sensitive Land Fails to Sway Cabinet Vote


Pendleton, Randolph, The Florida Times Union


TALLAHASSEE -- Veterans and environmentalists clashed yesterday before the Cabinet over the proposed location of a federal veterans cemetery on environmentally sensitive land near Bushnell.

The veterans won.

Gov. Jeb Bush and the six Cabinet members voted unanimously to approve the sale of 137 acres to the federal government for expansion of the Florida National Cemetery after hearing from representatives of veterans' groups who said the space was needed.

"Shame on us if we say to these heroes, 'Not here,'" said Robin Higgins, executive director of the state Veterans Affairs Department.

Al Linden of Gainesville, representing disabled veterans, said he lost a leg in the Vietnam War. His family "would like the rest of my body to reside in Florida," he said.

"We are the endangered species," said Dick Giese of Lakeland, another disabled veteran.

THOUSANDS OF GRAVES

Federal officials said the cemetery would not harm the environment and would provide space for 65,000 to 100,000 graves that will be badly needed in Florida.

The U.S. Veterans Affairs Department agreed not to request any expansion of the cemetery in the future as part of the contract.

In a last-minute compromise before yesterday's meeting, the land to be sold was reduced from 179 to 137 acres to remove a portion that supports several endangered species. …

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