National Cemetery: Most people think of Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington D.C. A trip to the nation’s capital should, indeed, include the magnificent grounds of what was once Martha Washington’s grandson’s estate. More than 400,000 people are buried or in columbaria (niches that hold cremains) on 624 acres, the size of 472 football fields. However, with up to 30 burials a day, Arlington is expected to run out of space by 2025.
The Civil War: Too Many to Bury
Abraham Lincoln established the National Cemetery Administration in July 17, 1862. The Civil War caused more deaths than cemeteries could accommodate. Congress passed legislation that authorized the president to purchase “cemetery grounds” to be used as national cemeteries ” for soldiers who shall have died in the service of the country.” Property for 14 national cemeteries was quickly found. By 1870, nearly 300,000 Union dead had been buried in 73 national cemeteries; half were never identified.
Where to Find a National Cemetery
Fortunately, you probably don’t need to travel far to experience the moving sight of thousands and thousands of headstones, many with personal, sentimental decorations, honoring the men and women who have served in the military. There are 149 national cemeteries across the country, 135 under the National Cemetery Administration.
More than 4.1 million people, including Veterans of every war and conflict — from the Revolutionary War to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan — have been honored by burial in national cemeteries. Another 22 million living veterans are eligible to be buried with honors when they die.
Take time to locate a national cemetery near you; almost every state has at least one. Go and see the rows of endless headstones. Reflect on how many Americans have served the country, whether in war or peace. And how many died much too young, cheated out of a full life by circumstances in which they had no say.
Walk among the rows. Read the names, the dates, and the short tributes on the headstones. Look at the flowers and sentiments that the families have left for their loved ones.
Thank them for their service.