The hallowed grounds that have served as the final resting place for American service members from the days of the Civil War may be closed to all but a few veterans. Arlington National Cemetery is running out of room.
“We’re literally up against a wall,” said cemetery spokeswoman Barbara Lewandrowski, according to WRAL.
The cemetery — once the estate for Robert E. Lee but now ringed by highways — holds the remains of more than 400,000 service members within its 624 acres. It adds about 30 deceased Americans per day, about 7,000 a year.
“Without a change, by 2041, we will run out of room,” said Karen Durham-Aguilera, the Executive Director of Army National Military Cemeteries, according to CBS.
Went to Arlington National Cemetery this morning to spend some time with Pop and pay my respects heading into this #MemorialDay weekend. Thank you for taking such good care of my Dad and all of our fallen heroes @ArlingtonNatl pic.twitter.com/3pvdenvmDm
— InsideThaDugout (@InsideThaDugout) May 25, 2018
The most likely change being explored is to limit who can be buried there.
“We could restrict eligibility to those active duty, who perish on active duty, Medal of Honor recipients and valor awards. So, if we have those type of restrictions, we can remain open for generations to come,’ said Durham-Aguilera, according to WPTV.
“One thing that is very special about Arlington, Americans from every single conflict in this country have been laid to rest here — every single one,” she added.
However, restricting who can be buried at Arlington stirs deep emotions.
“I don’t know if it’s fair to go back on a promise to an entire population of veterans,” said John Towles, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who is also legislative deputy director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
“Let Arlington fill up with people who have served their country,” said Towles. “We can create a new cemetery that, in time, will be just as special.”
“Everybody wants to see Arlington stay open,” said Gerardo Avila, a wounded Iraq veteran who addressed Congress to show the American Legion’s resistance to changing the rules of who can be buried there.
The Department of Veterans Affairs operates 135 military cemeteries, but none has the prominence of Arlington.
The Army is conducting a survey about Arlington’s future. The survey is available to everyone online.
“What does the nation want us to do?” Durham-Aguilera. “If the nation has the will to say we want to keep Arlington special and available, we have to make a change.”
Nadine McLachlan understands. Her WWII veteran husband, Col. Joseph McLachlan, buried at Arlington in 2005, would not qualify for burial at Arlington under some new rules being proposed.
“My Joe was a wonderful man — very courageous, very kind,” she said. “I’m not sure that’s fair, to cut out men like him. They were in the line of fire, even if they made it. Being buried here with his friends meant a lot to him. It really is a dilemma.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.