The CNMI Office of Veterans Affairs is now on their second phase of expansion for the veteran’s cemetery in Marpi, this includes sprinklers, columbarium, sprinklers, etc.
According to VAO executive officer Stanley Iakopo, there will be a columbarium and double plots where two people can be buried side to side. The expansion will also include a memorial wall, as well as, installing sprinklers.
The veterans cemetery currently holds 216 existing crypts and 270 new crypts. Additionally, there will be a total of 320 columbariums where urns will be stored.
The veterans cemetery will also include an administration building. “It will be the maintenance [there] and in the future when we do funerals, it will be discussed, we all need the families and do briefings and, and how to, in terms of working on what goes on when our veteran arrives, you know, from the funeral home.”
According to Iakopo, the cemetery is a state-run cemetery that’s federally funded which means that the CNMI’s veterans cemetery has certain regulations that we must follow.
Iakopo stated that he’s reached out to the main office in Washington, D.C. to make some exemptions for the CNMI due to the closeness of the culture.
The OVA, in collaboration with the National Cemetery Administration, broke ground last Feb. 25 for the planned expansion of the cemetery that should be completed by the end of the year.
The CNMI Office of Grants Management and OVA initiated the project in 2017. According to multiple sources, the process took them three years to accomplish because they wanted to make sure that they did everything correctly and according to plan.
According to the administration the project’s budget sits at $3.2 million.
“We all die two deaths. The first time when breath leaves us for the last time; but we only truly die sometime in the future when no one speaks our name or tells our story,” Iakopo said on the groundbreaking ceremony last Feb. 25.