Arlington National Cemetery — which was established in 1864 and serves as the final resting place for more than 400,000 soldiers — is reportedly running out of room.
According to the NFDA, there are more than 20 million living veterans, but only about 100,000 burial spaces left in the cemetery.
Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, which is the final resting place for the men and women who served in the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, is an area of special concern. Karen Durham-Aguilera, the executive director of Army National Military Cemeteries, told Military.com that they “are filling up every single day.” As a result, Section 60 will soon close to new burials. But that’s just the beginning. Current projections show that the entire cemetery will close both above and below ground interments by around 2040.
As burial space runs out, some officials are proposing burial restrictions. These proposed restrictions would determine which service members can receive a burial at Arlington.
The Army Times notes that currently, “most honorably discharged veterans can request Arlington Cemetery as their final resting place.” But these new restrictions proposed would limit eligibility to only distinguished veterans — those who’ve been honored with a Silver Star or higher — or soldiers who died while serving on active duty.
Opposition to Restrictions
Representatives from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Military Officers Association of America, American Legion, and the Airforce Association, have voiced their concern. These veteran groups worry about the exclusion of thousands of veterans who’ve served.
Some veteran groups think Arlington National Cemetery should look to expand. Their idea involves adding new burial sites around Washington D.C. while keeping the Arlington name. They hope that expanding the cemetery will avoid burial restrictions.
As of right now, a new survey is underway to gauge public opinion on what should be done next.
Facts About Arlington
As lawmakers consider the long-term solutions to allow Arlington National Cemetery to remain operational, here are some important facts about the hallowed grounds:
- About 150 burials take place at Arlington Cemetery each week.
- In 2017, there were more than 7,100 burials.
- More than 3 million people visit the cemetery each year.
- It is the only cemetery to have soldiers buried from every war in American history.
- There are foreign nationals from Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, South Africa, South Vietnam, and the United Kingdom buried in the cemetery. Many are soldiers who died serving alongside American soldiers.
- The cemetery was host to the first-ever Memorial Day ceremony (then known as Decoration Day), which took place in 1868.
What are your thoughts on the proposed plans for Arlington Cemetery? Share with us in the comments below!