ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It is a first for the city, a new National Cemetery is being planned west of Albuquerque. The new burial ground will allow veterans to receive official burial sites as the Santa Fe National Cemetery runs out of land.

With only two national cemeteries in the state, one in Santa Fe and the other in Fort Bayard near Silver City, veterans who call Albuquerque home, are calling the long-awaited plan a huge win. “New Mexico is a rural state. Travel can be a headache as we get older so it’s important to have a cemetery to remember those who sacrificed for us,” says veteran Tom Wagner.

In addition to the state’s two national cemeteries, there are also three state veterans’ cemeteries. However, The VA expects the Santa Fe National Cemetery to run out of land in the next decade or so. Santa Fe National Cemetery Director Victor Vasquez says the new Albuquerque site will help provide some much-needed relief. “Albuquerque will be a brand new cemetery so it’s going to be focusing on a larger population. We will still be buried in Santa Fe for another 100 years,” says Vasquez.

With almost 70,000 veterans and family members buried at the Santa Fe National Cemetery, the VA  announced its $2.8 million purchase earlier of the 230 acres of land near the Petroglyph National Monument, just south of Albuquerque’s Double Eagle Airport. “We are going to be closer to our constituents both in Santa Fe and Albuquerque in the southwest area of the state,” said Vasquez. Without the alternative, the VA says Santa Fe’s National Cemetery would run out of space for the 81,000 veterans currently living in the Albuquerque area.

Vasquez says the site, which is still in its planning phases, will provide burial space for the next 300 years. “It’s seemed to be a long time coming with the massive population here in the state and it’s nice that they are finally getting together and planning to build a cemetery where the loved ones can visit,” says veteran Roland Parker.

Santa Fe National Cemetery Director Victor Vasquez says the federal government has allocated $41 million for the Albuquerque site. He says groundbreaking is expected by 2026. The goal is to begin burials at the new cemetery in five years.