Not to be confused with the similarly named Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery nearby, the Leavenworth National Cemetery is also part of the larger Dwight D. Eisenhower Medical Center Historic District, and remains intricately linked with the history of veteran healthcare over the last two centuries. Before being officially marked as a National Cemetery in 1930, the burial site began as part of the Western Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, one of the earliest federal veterans care programs in the country. The Western Branch was built in 1886, and tended to the needs of veterans who could not live on their own, primarily due to injury. By 1930, these facilities were absorbed into the newly formed Veterans Administration, which would later evolve into the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Like all National Cemeteries, there are a vast amount of stories that can be told about the men and women buried at Leavenworth. The site includes five Civil War-era Medal of Honor recipients, including Daniel A. Dorsey, who was captured during the “Great Locomotive Chase” raid, fictionalized in Buster Keaton’s 1926 silent comedy The General. Another notable - and more recent - burial is Ed Charles, a Korean War veteran who played professional baseball, winning the World Series with the New York Mets in 1969. During the construction of some of the medical buildings, the remains of twelve Native Americans were discovered. All twelve were reinterred into a single grave within the Cemetery, a reminder of the land upon which the entire American project was built.
Owing to the Cemetery’s origins as part of the larger Western Branch, its sprawling 160 acres is four times larger than the nearby Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery, and over 45,000 veterans of conflicts ranging from the Indian Wars to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried in the area. While much of the original architecture from the 1880s has been removed, buildings from the end of the Western Branch and the start of VA control in the 1920s and early 1930s remain standing. These include a rest house constructed out of limestone in 1921, a tool shed from 1928, and a limestone rostrum from 1936. The Cemetery retains so much historical importance to the region that it, along with the Eisenhower VA Medical Center (built to replace the Western Branch) were included into the previously mentioned Dwight D. Eisenhower Medical Center Historic District in 1999, ensuring that the rich stories contained within the grounds will not be disturbed.