A proposed veteran's cemetery that would be a first in South Texas is one step closer to coming to fruition.
Nueces County Commissioners last week listened as representatives from Flint Hills Resources announced that the company would be donating 55 acres of land, worth $1.2 million, to the county in the hopes of having it used to build a veteran's cemetery.
The donation is the largest single donation in value that the company has made in Texas, Flint Hills representatives said.
"It's important that we have something for our veterans," Rich Tuttle, director of regional public affairs for Flint Hills, said Aug. 20. "It's been a rewarding and innovative, but I have to admit, challenging process.
The county, which has more than 57,000 veterans, does not currently have a veteran's cemetery nearby. In fact, the closest one is in Mission, Texas, more than a two-hour drive for those looking to honor friends and loved ones who have given their lives in service for their country.
There are also two others in Arlington and Abilene.
"This is a most generous gift of Flint Hills to the veterans of South Texas," County Judge Loyd Neal. "It's located in one of the premiere sites in terms of access and visibility."
Those benefits are due to the location of the 55-acre stretch of land that is being donated to the county, which is located on Carbon Plant Road alongside Interstate 37.
"We believe it's of high value to the community to have a veteran's cemetery at that location," Tuttle said Monday.
The county began looking to acquire land for a veteran's cemetery in 2004 and was originally considering a site in Agua Dulce. However, that site was later turned down by the state, due to the state's desire to have a location closer to a metropolitan area.
Not long after that, Flint Hills approached the county about donating the property on Carbon Plant Road for the cemetery. Over the past year, however, negotiations began to slow down between Flint Hills, the city of Corpus Christi, Nueces County and the state to ensure that the agreement's language was suitable for all of the parties involved.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Oscar Ortiz said he was moved by the dedication to the project shown by his fellow commissioner, Betty Jean Longoria, and others who spearheaded the effort to bring a veteran's cemetery to South Texas.
"It was a little like Thomas Edison - there were some failures along the way, but they were persistent and it paid off," Ortiz said.
The Texas Department of Transportation, county officials said, is also going to be working with officials to ensure a future project, the Interstate 37-Carbon Plant Direct Connector, will not impede with the look and feel of the cemetery, since it will run adjacent to the property. The retaining wall that runs near the cemetery will have a large mural of an American flag running across it and the pillars will be decorated with various military logos and insignia.
"We're one of the most patriotic areas in the state and the United States," Neal said. "We have a lot of people who've served in the military."
For veteran Abel Chapa, the agreement is a testament to all those who sacrificed their lives in service to their country.
"While we can all not live in the past, we can never forget what they have done," Chapa said.
The county must formally accepted Flint Hill's donation Wednesday and plans to turn the property over to the state, whose responsibility it is to develop and maintain the land after the turnover is complete. Funding will also need to be obtained from the U.S. Bureau of Veterans Affairs, Tuttle said, which must also be done by the state, though there is no timeline for when funding may become available.