When U.S. Air Force veteran Staff Sgt. Karl Edward Stempien was laid to rest Thursday, he became the 3,000th person buried at the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery Central since it opened just outside Fort Knox in June 2007.
Stempien had served 11 years in the Air Force.
The Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs oversees the state's regional military cemeteries. The cemetery in Radcliff contains the remains of 2,489 veterans and 510 dependent spouses and children. The total includes 11 service members who died on active duty, four of whom were killed in action.
The cemetery also serves portions of Ohio and Indiana.
A new veterans center planned for Hardin County will be just the fourth such facility in the state, and will offer long-term care in a region known for its close ties to the military.
State and local leaders were in Radcliff Wednesday to honor the official groundbreaking for the center that has been seven years in the making. With a planned opening in June, 2015, the project will feature a dozen ten-person homes, and will provide full nursing services to 120 veterans.
Those who helped design the Hardin County facility say it will offer residents a degree of autonomy not often found in nursing homes.
“They will be able to design their own rooms as far as how they decorate the room,” said Gilda Hill, Executive Director of the Office of Kentucky Veterans Centers. “They are welcome to bring their own furniture if they like, if that will make them feel more at home. They will tell us when they want to eat breakfast, when they want to bathe, and when they want to go out of the building for visits.”
The Radcliff Veterans Center will sit on 195 acres of land donated by the Defense Department.
Speaking at Wednesday’s ceremony, Governor Steve Beshear pointed out there is a great need for the kinds of services that be provided at the Radcliff Veterans Center.
Work has begun on a veteran's center planned in Hardin County even though officials are still awaiting final approval from federal officials.
Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Ken Lucas told The News-Enterprise that the project in Radcliff has gotten preliminary approval and there's no indication that it won't get final approval soon.
A construction bid for the Radcliff Veterans Center nursing facility has already been awarded and excavation at the site, which is adjacent to the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery-Central, is underway.
Lucas says the final cost of the facility is estimated at $40 million, with the state paying 35% and the federal government paying 65%.
He said it will be the fourth nursing center in Kentucky authorized specifically for veterans.
A Radcliff man has been indicted for complicity to commit trafficking in medical marijuana that investigators believe was being shipped to Kentucky from Colorado and California.
The Greater Hardin County Narcotics Task Force arrested 35 year old Henry Butler last month at his home. He was indicted by a grand jury last week. According to court documents, the U.S. Postal Service seized about $14,000 in cash that Butler was mailing to California.