Several years ago, we took a family vacation to Washington DC and the surrounding area. We crammed as much sight-seeing as we could into the 7 days we were there– Smithsonians, Gettysburg, Memorials, and so much more. But my favorite stop of the whole vacation was the trip we took to Arlington National Cemetery. It amazed me how peaceful it was. The vast expanse of the property is something you can’t understand from just seeing pictures or seeing it on TV.
When I pondered what I was going to write my first Iowa “travel” post about, I remembered that we have one of those peaceful places right here in Iowa. It’s the Iowa Veterans Cemetery. Obviously it’s a smaller version, but no less breathtaking.
The cemetery is located in Van Meter at exit 113 on Interstate 80.
Ironically, I pass by this cemetery twice a day on my way to and from work, and probably even more on the weekends. Up until this most recent visit, I had only been there once. Just to give you a reference point as to how close this cemetery really is to my home, take a look at the pictures in this post. Can you see the water tower off in the distance in some of the pictures? Yes, that’s the town I live in.
As I drove through the cemetery and stopped to take several photos, there was only one other car driving through. At one of the times I stopped to take a photo, an elderly gentleman in that car also stopped and got out with me. I saw the license plates on his car to learn that he was from Woodbury county. He just stood and stared at the monuments I was taking pictures of.
I smiled at him and he smiled back. Then he said, very quietly, “I’ve always heard about this place, but I’ve never visited it.”
I told him how I lived close by, and I just have always thought it was a nice place to visit.
He said, “I have already found a few of my old army friends here.”
I stopped to think about that for a few seconds, and then replied “Thank you for your service.” He smiled, took a couple more photos, and quietly got back into his car and drove away.
I stayed for a little while longer after he left, taking a few more pictures and just soaking in the peace and quiet.
If you’ve never visited the Veterans Cemetery, I highly recommend taking a trip to see it. It’s located on an amazingly beautiful landscape, and is so quiet and serene.Have you been to the Iowa Veteran's Cemetery yet? Read more about it here: Click To Tweet
The cemetery was first dedicated in 2006, with construction beginning in 2007. The first burials took place in July 2008. The Veterans Cemetery currently has the burial space for as many as 80,000 burials.
In order to be eligible for burial in this cemetery, you must have been discharged (not dishonorably) or died while on active duty. A person is also eligible if they served 20 or more years in the National Guard or Reserves. No burial fees are charged for eligible veterans, and a headstone is also provided at no cost. Spouses and children of veterans can also be buried at the cemetery for a small fee.
Please take a look at some of the photos I captured that chilly, windy April day. I plan to stop there again soon now that the weather is nicer. I’d like to see all the trees filled out, and the flowers blooming.
The Iowa Veterans Cemetery is open 7 days a week — 7:30am to sundown Monday through Friday, and 8:00am to sundown on the weekends.