Arlington National Cemetery is eventually going to run out of room for burials, meaning most service members from the Gulf War and any following conflicts will no longer be guaranteed a final resting place on the prestigious grounds unless action is taken.
Leaders want the public's input to help guide their decisions on how to address the matter. Further expansion, a modification of burial requirements and even the possibility of another cemetery are all options on the table.
Based on current eligibility requirements for burials, Arlington National Cemetery is expected to run out of room in 23 years. In an effort to be ahead of any capacity crisis, directors are asking that Americans give input by completing a survey while they tackle the issue.
At a March 8 hearing before the House Armed Services Military Personnel subcommittee, Executive Director of Army National Military Cemeteries, Karen Durham-Aguilera said, "Without changes to the current eligibility requirements and physical footprint, Arlington National Cemetery will not be a burial option for most who served in the Gulf War — or any conflict since — regardless of their contribution, achievements, or valor."
Analyzing the results of a prior National Dialogue Survey from over 28 thousand respondents, 91 percent of participants said that veterans killed in action should have the greatest priority for burial on the site. Only 2 percent of respondents felt strongly that politicians should have a priority.
While Arlington has the most stringent requirements of any national cemetery, most veterans who have served at least one day and were honorably discharged are "eligible for above-ground inurnment at the cemetery."
Durham-Aguilera reiterated leadership's request for public input, telling citizens in a statement, "Your opinion matters — not only to us, but to our military and civilian leaders as they face a difficult future for our hallowed national shrine."