On Wednesday, a Senate Appropriations subcommittee held a hearing with staff from Arlington National Cemetery to discuss a proposed expansion plan to have more space to bury military veterans as Arlington’s space is running out. Senators Jerry Moran and Brian Schatz met with Army Col. Michael Peloquin, the cemetery’s director of engineering, on Wednesday to hear about the new location to expand the cemetery.
“Envision this hillside covered in white headstones,” Peloquin said as he pointed the Senators to look at large stretch of grass, Stars and Stripes reported. “We want to replicate the look and the feel [of Arlington National Cemetery] in this new space.”
The proposed space would expand the cemetery on the South, adding room for another 40,000 to 60,000 grave sites, allowing Arlington to remain active into the 2050s. The cemetery would need $274 million for the construction and wouldn’t be able to begin burials on the site until 2023 at the earliest.
Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director of Army National Military Cemeteries, said that the Army sees this as a “critical point” in the cemetery’s history.
“The Army recognizes that the nation is at a critical point in the cemetery’s history,” Durham-Aguilera said. “Current projections show Arlington National Cemetery will reach maximum capacity in the early 2040s. This means that a veteran from the 1991 Gulf War who lives to his or her normal life expectancy will not have the choice to be interred at Arlington.”
Senator Moran, the chairman of the Military Construction, Veteran Affairs and Related Agencies Subcommittee said that while there are issues to work through to get the site, he would assume the responsibility to make sure it got done.
“I know there are issues: land issues, budget issues, space issues to work through,” Moran said. “I welcome the great responsibility of helping preserve and protect Arlington, and ensuring – for as long as possible – this ground is open and active for the burial and inurnment of those who have served us all.”
From the Arlington Cemetery website:
The Army National Military Cemeteries, consisting of Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia and Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., are under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Army. The Secretary of the Army consolidated authorities and created the Executive Director position to effectively and efficiently develop, operate, manage and administer the program.
Arlington National Cemetery conducts between 27 and 30 funeral services each week day and between 6 and 8 services on Saturday. The grounds of Arlington National Cemetery honor those who have served our nation by providing a sense of beauty and peace for our guests. The rolling green hills are dotted with trees that are hundreds of years in age and complement the gardens found throughout the 624 acres of the cemetery. This impressive landscape serves as a tribute to the service and sacrifice of every individual laid to rest within the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.