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New Land Expands Arlington Cemetery's Burial Space

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 13, 2002 – The departments of the Interior and the Army have released 26 acres of land to make room for more graves and a new columbarium at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

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Soldiers of H Company, 3rd U.S. Infantry (Old Guard,) escort a flag-draped coffin on a caisson during a funeral in Arlington National Cemetery, Va. The departments of the Interior and the Army released 26 acres of land in January to make room for more graves and a new columbarium. Photo by Pfc. James C. Fidel, USA

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Officials have expressed concern for several years that the ballooning number of dying World War II veterans would fill the cemetery to capacity by 2025.

Jack Metzler, cemetery superintendent at Arlington, said there are about 6,000 burials at Arlington each year, but only about 2,200 are into new graves.

"Husbands and wives are put with their spouses into existing graves, and ashes are placed into the columbarium," he said, explaining the remaining 3,800 burials.

He said the number of burials in Arlington will continue to increase until 2008, "when we expect World War II veterans' deaths to peak."

The 26 acres released in January are on the northwest corner of the cemetery. The land includes 12 acres that aren't being used, four acres of warehouse area, and about 10 acres of land that currently are used as a picnic area on Fort Myer. The three parcels are adjacent to each other and will be developed beginning in 2007 to make them suitable for burials, Metzler explained.

He said the cemetery's routine capacity is about 800 graves per acre. On newly acquired land that's too hilly for graves, cemetery officials plan to build a columbarium for cremated remains, he added. The size of the columbarium hasn't been set yet.

Cemetery officials will begin in 2003 to develop another 40 acres along the cemetery's eastern border. Metzler explained what it will take to develop land to make it suitable for burials.

"We have to address the drainage issue," he said. "For years, water (mostly storm runoff) has been running unchecked in there." He also said workers would need to remove a stone fence, clear small trees and bushes, plant grass and add roads and utilities.

For more information, visit Arlington National Cemetery's Internet home page at www.arlingtoncemetery.org.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageThe gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery are graced by U.S. flags on Memorial Day. The departments of the Interior and the Army have released 26 acres of land to make room for more graves and a new columbarium. DoD Photo.  
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