Marina >> With a groundbreaking likely in March, organizers of the Fort Ord veterans cemetery accepted donations Friday to help the effort.
The county United Veterans Council gave $25,000 raised from the annual Heroes Open Golf Tournament and $5,500 from Margot Stengel, organizer of the Run for the Fallen.
“The cemetery has not gone away but it’s not a done deal either,” said Richard Garza of the Central Coast Veterans Cemetery Foundation. “… We can’t do it without the support of the veteran community and the community at large.”
Garza said 2014, when it actually received the new donations, was the foundation’s most successful fundraising year in about 20 years. It also received $25,000 back in November from the Naval Postgraduate School Foundation.
Initial construction on the cemetery will not include gravesites, but a columbarium for cremated remains.
A rough schedule for when the remains can go to the cemetery is July 2016, but the foundation does not yet have a set date.
Foundation board member Jimmy Panetta said the group is waiting for word from the California Department of Veterans Affairs and others who are working on the project to nail down exact dates for the next steps.
The foundation said the donations announced Friday will be used for the anticipated expansion of the cemetery, including an additional columbarium and an area for gravesites.
Closed in 1994, Fort Ord had an estimated 1.5 million troops train there since it opened in 1917. Cemetery fundraisers estimate roughly 100,000 veterans and their families could eventually use the cemetery.