New rules proposed for Arlington National Cemetery could put tighter new restrictions on who can be buried in the hallowed resting place of America’s veterans.
The cemetery, begun as a place for slain Union soldiers in the Civil War, has been facing a crisis of limited space. The current cemetery grounds, which already hold about 400,000 graves, have room for about 95,000 more burials under current regulations, according to The Associated Press.
If nothing is changed, those spots could be filled in the mid-2050s, the AP reported.
Eligibility requirements for burial at Arlington are already stricter than at other national cemeteries, according to the cemetery’s website. However, inurnment — having cremated remains stored aboveground at the cemetery — is open to virtually any honorably discharged veteran under current criteria.
The new criteria for burial at Arlington were proposed by acting Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy on Wednesday. (The cemetery is open to all branches of the service, but is administered by the Army.)
“Arlington National Cemetery is a national shrine for all Americans, but especially those who have served our great nation,” McCarthy said in a statement. “We must ensure it can honor those we have lost for many years to come.”
— Arlington National Cemetery (@ArlingtonNatl) September 25, 2019
The changes rescind automatic eligibility for in-ground burial from veterans who retired from active duty and were eligible for retirement pay. Those veterans would still be eligible for inurnment at Arlington, however
Many veterans who left the service under honorable conditions, who are currently eligible for inurnment, might not be allowed in Arlington at all if their service didn’t include combat or conflict conditions, according to Military Times.
A statement from Arlington National Cemetery lists the criteria that would be applied for those seeking to rest with America’s heroes at Arlington.
Below-ground burial would be restricted to those who were: killed in action, to include repatriated remains of service members; awarded the Silver Star or above; Purple Heart recipients; killed in what the statement called “uniquely military activities”; former POWs; presidents and vice presidents; and combat veterans who later served as government officials.
Arlington would accept the cremated remains of those who were: World War II-era veterans; retirees eligible for retirement pay; veterans with at least two years of service and combat experience; veterans who later served as government officials.
Arlington will also reserve 1,000 burial spaces for Medal of Honor recipients.
The rules sparked debate on Twitter.
My dad gave his life to the army Air Corps/Air Force, but died a retiree (he and Mom are buried at Arlington). He would not be eligible under these rules, despite being in 3 wars?! That doesn’t seem right.
— AngryFembot (@CassaGoSoccer) September 26, 2019
As an Honorably Discharged NonCom, I have no disagreement with not being laid to rest in Arlington. Those that gave the ultimate sacrifice should be given priority, if their family wishes for their loved one to be bestowed the honor.
— EDGARDO (@Cavite_Che) September 25, 2019
The Army has spent more than two years in formulating the proposal, and said more than 250,000 people responded to a survey to help shape Arlington’s future.
The new criteria will be subject to a public comment period, after which they could take effect in mid-2020.
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