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Arlington Cemetery adds space for cremated remains
 9 December 2008

  The eight vaults housing the cremated remains of veterans and their spouses at Arlington National Cemetery may not be as familiar as the seemingly endless rows of white headstones.

But more than half of the cemetery’s services are now for cremated remains — and with limited burial space, the cemetery is making room for more.

On Tuesday, 9 December 2008, some 200 people gathered for a ceremony to open the cemetery’s ninth outdoor structure for entombing cremated remains. The 6-foot-tall, nearly half-mile-long outdoor wall known as a columbarium will house the remains of more than 6,500 veterans.

Cemetery spokeswoman Kaitlin Horst said demand is great for burial space at Arlington and more people are choosing to cremate their loved ones because the requirements are more relaxed than for in-ground burials.

Only certain members of the military, including those who died while on active duty or were awarded certain decorations, can be buried in the ground at Arlington. But most are eligible for places in the columbarium.

“People want their loved ones placed here because it’s such a storied cemetery with such a special place in our nation’s history,” Horst said.

Military of all ranks, astronauts, presidents and others are among those buried in the 612-acre cemetery since 1864. The Tomb of the Unknowns also is there.

Undersecretary of the Army Nelson Ford said Tuesday the cemetery is running out of land.

“We’ll come to a point where we won’t have the capability to bury anyone, but it won’t happen in my lifetime,” Ford said.

In 2011, the cemetery will acquire more burial space after Arlington County approved a 4.3-acre land swap between the county and the federal government.

Each week the cemetery conducts between 27 and 30 funeral services. Of the 6,904 funerals last year, about 4,600 were held for cremated remains, which were placed in the columbariums as well as buried.

Cemetery officials say 62 percent of funeral services are now for cremated remains and the new wall will ensure enough space for urns over the next four years.

The $5.6 million project was designed by the Army Corps of Engineers and had been scheduled to begin in 1990. But cemetery superintendent John C. Metzler says budget issues delayed the beginning stages of the project until 2004.

Metzler was introduced to the concept of the niche wall in the 1990s when he toured Fort Rosencrantz National Cemetery in San Diego, California, which used a wall to hold cremated remains because it was running out of space.

With Arlington’s new wall, the cemetery will be able to hold the cremated remains of more than 46,000 veterans. The first urns are scheduled to be placed in the wall in January.

“It feels pretty good to be able to see something from concept to completion,” Metzler said. “I’m really anxious to see how family members are going to view this.”

New Space For Cremated Remains: Arlington National Cemetery PHOTO
A wall that will hold the cremated remains of America's armed forces was dedicated in a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery,
Tuesday, December 9, 2008. The Niche Wall Columbarium contains 6,573 compartments that are embedded in a gray fieldstone
wall that runs nearly one half mile, parallel to the Potomac River along Route 110 on the easternmost border of the cemetery


A wall that will hold the cremated remains of America's armed forces is dedicated at Arlington National Cemetery Tuesday, December 9, 2008.
A ceremonial casket will be used to carry the cremated remains to the site. The Niche Wall Columbarium contains 6,573 compartments that are
embedded in nearly one half mile long gray fieldstone wall that runs parallel to the Potomac River along the eastermost border of the cemetery

New Space For Cremated Remains: Arlington National Cemetery PHOTO
Arlington National Cemetery Superintendent John C. Metzler, right, and Army Undersecretary Nelson M. Ford, left, view a ceremonial casket that will be
used to carry the cremated remains to the newly dedicated Niche Wall Columbarium, Tuesday, December 9, 2008, at Arlington National Cemetery.
The wall contains 6,573 compartments that are embedded in a gray fieldstone running nearly one half mile long at the eastermost border of the cemetery

New Space For Cremated Remains: Arlington National Cemetery PHOTO
Arlington National Cemetery Superintendent John C. Metzler, right, and Army Undersecretary Nelson M. Ford, view the wall that will hold the cremated
remains of America's armed forces following a dedication ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery Tuesday, December 9, 2008. The Niche Wall
Columbarium contains 6,573 compartments that are embedded in a gray fieldstone wall that runs nearly one half mile long parallel to the Potomac River along the easternmost border of the cemetery

New Space For Cremated Remains: Arlington National Cemetery PHOTO
A wall that will hold the cremated remains of America's armed forces is dedicated at Arlington National Cemetery, Tuesday, December 9, 2008.
Ladies who volunteer at the cemetery tour The Niche Wall Columbarium that contains 6,573 compartments embedded
in a half mile long gray fieldstone wall. A sample urn is on display at left





Posted: 9 December 2008