Arlington Cemetery Set to Open More Burial Space

NGAUS Washington Report
June 12, 2018

A new section of Arlington National Cemetery will see its first burials this summer, extending the life span of the nation’s most famous graveyard into the 2040s, a cemetery official said. Without the additional 27 acres of the recently finished Millennium Project, the last burial at Arlington would take place sometime in the next decade.

The expansion cost $81.7 million and has been in the works for nearly 20 years, The Washington Post reported last week. It is the first major geographical expansion of the 154-year old cemetery in 40 years.

The section in the northwestern part of the cemetery was carved out of a recreation area for a neighboring military base, a construction-staging area for the cemetery and a forest belonging to the National Park Service.

It includes 6,000 pre-dug graves with double-stacked concrete crypts. Col. Mike Peloquin, the cemetery’s director of engineering, told the newspaper that the lower crypt is accessed through a lid that is part of the upper crypt. The crypts have been covered with gravel and topsoil to make opening the graves easier and more efficient. There is room for more conventional burials, as well.

The cemetery is not done expanding. The Southern Expansion, as it is called, will add 37 acres and be completed by 2025 at a cost of $247 million.

Still, the cemetery’s life is limited.

“We can’t expand out of our challenge,” said Renea Yates, the deputy superintendent for cemetery administration. “We are surrounded” by the urban community.

A report by the cemetery last year said that veterans of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places during the war on terrorism will likely not have the option of being buried in Arlington.

The cemetery is considering a review of eligibility rules for burial in an attempt to slow the loss of available space. Currently, most active service members and retirees qualify for burial, with a few exceptions. Medal recipients, former prisoners of war and a few others qualify. Some family members have the right to be buried in the ground that once belonged to the family of Gen. Robert E. Lee.