VA Names Navy Veteran Rex Kern As New Director of Fort Rosecrans, Miramar National Cemeteries

Rex Kern is the new director of Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery and Miramar National Cemetery. He previously served as director of the Los Angeles National Cemetery, and was director of VA cemeteries in Louisiana.
Rex Kern is the new director of Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery and Miramar National Cemetery. He previously served as director of the Los Angeles National Cemetery, and was director of VA cemeteries in Louisiana.

March 28, 2016
The Department of Veterans Affairs has named Rex Kern, a U.S. Navy veteran, as the new director of the Fort Rosecrans and Miramar National Cemeteries.  Kern took up his new post on March 7, 2016.  He succeeds Douglas Ledbetter, who was appointed director of Dayton National Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.

Kern, 56, previously was director of the Los Angeles National Cemetery, where he had served since August 2014.  That cemetery is now closed to first-time burials.  In San Diego, he will lead a staff of 23, and will be responsible for burial, maintenance, and administrative operations of the two cemeteries.

“Our Board of Directors is extremely pleased to have Rex, with his extensive operational experience, here in San Diego,” says Dennis A. Schoville, President & CEO, Miramar National Cemetery Support Foundation.  “He is a true professional and, most importantly, he is dedicated to the service of our Veteran community and their families. We are fortunate to have him.”

Kern says he looks to the Support Foundation to continue its work of facilitating placement of veterans’ memorials and to sponsor various cemetery beautification projects.  Chief among the upcoming projects is the Foundation’s proposed Veterans Tribute Tower and Carillon.  That project is now under review by the Veterans Administration, and is expected to be dedicated at Miramar National Cemetery later this year.

In addition to the Veterans Tower at Miramar, Kern expects to develop the section east of the Memorial Walkway for burials, and perform landscaping around the Memorial Circle at the eastern end of the Avenue of Flags.  Landscaping of other areas of the cemetery, which opened in 2010, is ongoing.

Kern also will oversee more work at Fort Rosecrans.   He notes that the cemetery – while closed to first burials – continues to conduct second burials, and receives more than a million visitors a year.  The cemetery requires constant upkeep, and will need additional landscaping, new roadways, and non-recurring maintenance, all of which may take years to accomplish.

Expanded Louisiana National Cemetery

Prior to his Los Angeles position, Kern was director of the Port Hudson National Cemetery in Zachary, La., beginning in 2009.  “I enjoyed my work in Louisiana, because I was responsible for expanding the Civil War-era Port Hudson National Cemetery,” he says.  The expansion opened in 2012.

While director at Port Hudson, Kern also managed the Baton Rouge, Alexandria, and Louisiana National Cemeteries, and Natchez National Cemetery in Mississippi.

A native of Leavenworth, Kan., Kern joined the National Cemetery Administration in April 2006 as a cemetery representative at Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery.  That cemetery has a special meaning for him.  “My father was a veteran, and is buried there,” he says.  “It was the first time I had visited a veterans’ cemetery.”  Eleven years later, he applied for a job with the National Cemetery Administration, which operates VA cemeteries.

Kern served in the Navy for five years, earning the Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist Qualification.  He was twice named Sailor of the Quarter by the Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.  His last assignment before discharge in 1994 as a Storekeeper 2nd Class was to the Readiness Support Group, San Diego, providing logistical support to deployed battle groups.

Kern holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Mo.  He also earned an associate degree in culinary arts from Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kan., in 1980.  He has worked as a chef for various large hotels and fine dining establishments in Missouri, California, Florida, and Japan.

Kern and his wife, Connie, live in Mira Mesa.  They have two adult children, Andrew Hocker, and Rebecca Hocker, and a one-year-old grandchild, Berkly Sloan Collier.  They are expecting a second grandchild in August.

By Bill Heard
Foundation Public Information Officer

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