Story and photo by Nel Lampe | Special to the Mountaineer
Editor’s note: Information for this article was taken from U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pamphlets, Pikes Peak National Cemetery News Releases and an interview with the director of the cemetery.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Many military retirees live in the Pikes Peak area as do lots of veterans who served in uniform at one of the five local military installations and remained in the Pikes Peak area after discharge. Probably many of those veterans might choose to be buried in the Pikes Peak area. They now have that opportunity as the Pikes Peak National Cemetery, a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) national cemetery, is a reality.
Located at 10545 Drennan Road, south of the Colorado Springs Airport, it was dedicated almost a year ago. The 374-acre site, once part of the Rolling Hills Ranch, was purchased by the VA in January 2014. The national cemetery is just east of the intersection of Marksheffel and Drennan roads. It can be reached by taking Bradley Road east off South Powers Boulevard, (that leads to Schriever Air Force Base) turn north on Marksheffel Road and turn right on Drennan Road. It’s about 1.5 miles to the entrance gate of the cemetery.
Pikes Peak National Cemetery is the third national cemetery in Colorado; there’s one at Fort Logan in Denver and another one at Fort Lyon, near Las Animas.
The new cemetery was designed by AES Group, of Parker, and a 65-acre initial phase has been under construction since 2017. The first phase will provide approximately 13,300 gravesites. Both casketed and cremated remains will be accepted for burial, according to Paul LaGrange, director of the cemetery.
The administration office is in a temporary trailer until the permanent building is completed. The office is open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The phone number at Pikes Peak National Cemetery is 719-216-1025.
Construction projects still to come include maintenance buildings, another committal shelter, a memorial walkway and an information center where visitors can use an electronic gravesite locator.
An American flag flies from a pole on the cemetery’s west side and there’s a good view of Pikes Peak.
Visitors can enter the cemetery grounds at the gate, which is open sunup until sundown, seven days a week, LaGrange said.
The first burials in the cemetery were Nov. 1, when veterans from the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines were buried. A Coast Guard veteran was buried later with the first group of veterans, LaGrange said.
At present, casketed and cremated remains are accepted for in-ground burial only, LaGrange said. By the winter of this year, he anticipates that there will be additional options available, to include columbarium niches.
Burial in Pikes Peak National Cemetery is open to all armed forces members and veterans who have met their active-duty service requirements and were discharged under other than dishonorable conditions. Under specific conditions, veterans’ spouses, widows or widowers, minor children and unmarried adult children with certain disabilities and specific conditions may also be eligible for burial, according to LaGrange. He expects the cemetery will serve the burial needs of 95,000 veterans, their spouses and eligible Family members for the next 100 years.
LaGrange said the next of kin or a funeral home, acting on behalf of the Family of an eligible burial candidate, can request burial at the Pikes Peak National Cemetery by contacting the National Cemetery Scheduling Office, St. Louis, Missouri. A copy of the military discharge document, DD Form 214 must be faxed to the National Cemetery Administration
at 866-900-6417 or scanned and emailed to NCA.Scheduling@va.gov with the name of the decedent in the subject line. Follow up with a phone call to 800-535-1117. The office in Missouri is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Central Standard Time, but is closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Personnel at Pikes Peak National Cemetery cannot accept burial applications by phone or in person.
For additional information about the National Cemetery Administration, visit https://www.cem.va.gov/.
At present, about 600 military veterans and spouses are buried at Pikes Peak National Cemetery, and several burials take place daily.
Anyone who needs a copy of a DD Form 214 may get it online at http://vetrecs.archives.gov. To request a copy of DD Form 214 via mail, write to National Personnel Record Center, Military Personnel Records; 9700 Page Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63132 or call 314-801-0800.