Last Home of Heroes: Arlington National Cemetery Under Pressure … Time Is Running Out
For many Americans, the hallowed grounds at Arlington National Cemetery are a stark but beautiful reminder of the profound sacrifice so many patriots have made in the service of the United States of America.
Unfortunately, there is a growing problem at Arlington that few really want to discuss, much less actually address: the simple and unavoidable fact that the cemetery is drawing dangerously near running out of room for new interments, according to Stars and Stripes.
A recent report by the Army revealed that while there are virtually no good options to pursue, if nothing is done to address the problem soon, Arlington could run out room within the next couple of decades, meaning veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may not be able to be buried there.
Most of the potential solutions outlined in the report dealt with making adjustments to eligibility requirements for burial at Arlington, the most extreme being only allowing Medal of Honor awardees and those service members killed in action to be buried there.
As things stand now, any service member who dies while on active duty, as well as retired military and certain other veterans and family members, are eligible to join the estimated 400,000 already interred there, at roughly 7,000 new interments per year, about 20 to 30 per day.
The most likely solution is somewhere between current eligibility requirements and the most stringent example listed above, such as limiting in-ground interments to those killed in action, those who die on active duty and those who have received certain awards, with all others only remaining eligible for above-ground services, such as having their cremated remains interred in a recently completed columbarium court that can hold the remains of up to 20,000 individuals.
The Washington Post noted that expansion of the Arlington National Cemetery is also under consideration, as ground has already been broken on a 27-acre expansion that will be fully underway by the fall. Planning and design have already begun on a separate 38-acre expansion to the south of the cemetery, though there is no timeline on when that construction would begin.
Sadly, bureaucratic inefficiencies, aesthetics and environmental concerns have caused those expansion plans to drag out as varying demands are considered and met.
Hopefully a plan will be worked out soon, and while the Army will likely anger some people no matter what it does with the cemetery, it will anger a lot more if it chooses to do nothing and ends up completely running out of room before additional space is added or an adequate replacement — an Arlington Two, so to speak — is created.
The men and women who sacrificed on behalf of this country deserve a timely solution.