October 8, 2019
Press Release

LOS ANGELES – On Saturday, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County) attended the dedication of the Los Angeles National Cemetery’s new columbarium for veterans. Congressman Lieu was joined by Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie, VA Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Randy Reeves, Los Angeles National Cemetery Director Tom Ruck, Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, VA Medical Systems Director Dr. Steven Braverman, Brig. Gen (Ret.), and Actor Gary Sinise.

Congressman Lieu’s Remarks as Prepared:

  • Today, as we join to celebrate the dedication of the new Columbarium that will give our local heroes a final place of rest, we should also pause to honor the sacrifices of those who served and the freedom they fought to protect, 
  • It’s appropriate that this event is in 2019 as this year we marked the 75th Anniversary of D-Day on June 6. 
  • As we stand today on this hallowed ground and remember our fallen heroes, I’m going to take a couple of minutes to tell you about Congress’ role in the creation of the National Cemeteries. 
  • In 1861, it became obvious that U.S. was not prepared for the burial of more than 600,000 soldiers who died during the Civil War. 
  • In 1862, Congress empowered President Abraham Lincoln “to purchase cemetery grounds…. to be used as a national cemetery for the soldiers who shall die in the service of the country.”  
  • The first National Cemetery Act was enacted by Congress on Feb. 22, 1867 which included an appropriation of $750,000.  It was for construction of stone or iron fencing around all National Cemeteries and called for every gravesite to be marked with a headstone. It also declared that defacing graves would be considered a misdemeanor. 
  • Skip ahead to April 1920 when legislation was approved to bury our soldiers who died in the service of the United States in any national cemetery free of charge. 
  • In 1948, Congress expanded that to include:
    • those who died while serving honorably in the armed forces of the United States;
    • former members of the armed forces who were honorably discharged;
    • U.S. citizens who have served honorably or may serve in the armed forces of a nation allied with the United States during war; and
    • the spouse, widow, widower and minor (or dependent) children of those who meet the basic requirements.
  • And it was further amended in 1959 to include the burial of members of the Reserve, National Guard and ROTC.  
  • In 1973, Congress passed the National Cemeteries Act, which created the cemetery system we see today. It made the VA the new steward for the 111-year-old national cemetery system. 
  • Over the years Congress laid the ground work that enabled the building of this Columbarium that we are dedicating today. And I am pleased that we played a role in making sure that every Veteran who has been honorably discharged has a last resting place.
  • I appreciate the Department of Veterans Affairs for approving the building of this columbarium, and Director Tom Ruck for his leadership in overseeing the construction, and Chaplain Dov and the board of the Los Angeles National Cemetery Support Foundation for supporting the efforts.   
  • However, many people agree that this Colubarium wouldn’t be here without the persistence and perseverance of one Veteran who I am proud to call my constituent, Col. Dick Littlestone.  Colonel I salute you.  Your efforts have paid off beautifully!