The nation’s most beloved cemetery is expected to run out of room in just over 20 years and will no longer be able to accept new burials.
This major issue will force Congress to finalize one of the two solutions they are currently exploring for Arlington National Cemetery. This process could start as early as the next few months.
“Unfortunately, the cemetery is rapidly running out of space. If nothing is done, in a matter of 23 short years, the cemetery will be closed for new burials,” Republican Congressman Mike Coffman said this week, per Washington Examiner.
Arlington National Cemetery is running out of space pic.twitter.com/pOvTpirxnK
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Congress is looking at two options to extend the life of Arlington as an active cemetery: making it harder to get in, or finding more hallowed ground.
More than 400,000 people have been interred at the cemetery in its 153-year history, which dates back to the Civil War.
Today, there are just over 100,000 spaces left. About one-third are below-ground spaces, and the remainder are in columbariums, the niche walls in which urns are stored.
As the cemetery is adding on average more than 7,000 new burials a year, the cemetery will no longer have spots available around 2040.
One of the two options currently being explored by congressional members is changes to the eligibility requirements to be buried at the site.
“Unfortunately, without changes to the eligibility requirements and the physical footprint, Arlington National Cemetery will not be a burial option, for most who served in the Gulf War or any conflicts since, regardless of their contributions, achievements, or valor,” said Army National Military Cemeteries Executive Director Karen Durham-Aguilera, as Washington Examiner reports.
If this option were to be enacted, it would affect many people looking to have burial plans for the national cemetery.
“We are very sensitive to the fact that many who have served or are currently serving would be impacted,” Durham-Aguilera added before suggesting plans to expand the cemetery is only delaying an inevitable revision. “Expansion alone will not keep the cemetery open [much longer]. We must address the demand for internment by restricting eligibility in addition to physical expansion.”
With more than 22 million veterans, Arlington National Cemetery is not the only of the national cemeteries which is expected to contemplate what changes they should make to accommodate more of those who have served to defend the country.
“We do believe that we’re looking at every possibility and what we can do, but we also know that we cannot serve an entire population, no matter what,” Durham-Aguilera said. “We are filling up every day.”
— Fox News (@FoxNews) May 28, 2018
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Note: The author of this article has included commentary that expresses an opinion and analysis of the facts.
Many veterans groups oppose any change to the rules that allow most honorably discharged veterans to request burial at Arlington.
“Expansion of the cemetery grounds, contiguously or not, is a viable path forward and is the preferred method of extending the life of the cemetery,” testified Forrest Allen, on behalf of the Military Officers Association of America. “While it is costly and time-consuming, MOAA members have clearly indicated their preference for expansion over significantly restricting eligibility.”
The idea of buying land that’s not physically connected to the current cemetery, perhaps not even in the same jurisdiction, raised concerns that the new burial ground wouldn’t enjoy the same hallowed status as Arlington.