Arlington National Cemetery is expected to update its rules for burial eligibility.
Millions of men and women have and continue to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Many of these soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines have died in the line of duty.
Others have passed away after returning home to civilian life.
According to a recent Military Times article titled “As space dwindles, final rules on burial eligibility for Arlington Cemetery expected this fall,” about 22 million individuals are currently eligible for burial in Arlington National Cemetery.
This is no small number.
With fewer than 85,000 spaces left in this cemetery, there may not be room for soldiers in future generations to be honored in Arlington National Cemetery.
To include future generations, changes will need to be made to eligibility rules.
Army officials proposed changes in 2019, but were met with criticism.
The recommendations included restricting burial plots below ground to battle casualties, combat heroes, and a small number of notable dignitaries.
Cremated remains could be housed in structures above the ground for other veterans.
Critics argued this would change the end-of-life and funeral plans for many veterans and be perceived as counting the military service and sacrifice of some as more valuable than others.
Arlington is currently the final resting place for about 400,000.
Each year, approximately 7,000 men and women are added to this number, although the number dropped last year as a result of COVID-19.
There is currently an expansion project set to add 80,000 burial plots to the cemetery.
Even with these new plots, capacity is expected to be reached between 2040 and the mid-2060s if no changes are made.
This means future military members who are killed in action or who have received the Medal of Honor would be excluded.
What might the new eligibility rules recommend?
It is likely the new rules for interment at Arlington would exclude most non-combat veterans.
With the proposed changes, Army officials anticipate Arlington National Cemetery would continue to be the resting place for heroes for at least another 150 years.
Veterans who are eligible for burial in veterans cemeteries managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs across the country would not be impacted by these rules as they are specific to Arlington.
Reference: Military Times (May 5, 2021) “As space dwindles, final rules on burial eligibility for Arlington Cemetery expected this fall”