Act Now: Don’t Let Arlington Cemetery Changes Move Forward Without Your Voice

Act Now: Don’t Let Arlington Cemetery Changes Move Forward Without Your Voice
Fall foliage in Section 35 of Arlington National Cemetery. (Photo by Elizabeth Fraser/Arlington National Cemetery)

The public comment period on the Federal Register to address dramatic reductions for eligibility to Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) opened Sept. 15 and will close Nov. 16. As of mid-October, there were roughly 700 comments made with a month left to address proposed changes that are discriminatory in nature.

 

[TAKE ACTION: Submit a Comment | Contact Your Lawmaker]

 

Some members of Congress are watching the volume of comments to gauge interest, making it even more important to make your voice heard.

 

 

ANC is running out of room for interments, and the proposed eligibility changes for interment and inurnment at ANC are designed to extend the life of the cemetery. Unfortunately, if the eligibility changes are approved, many who had planned for an in-ground burial at ANC will have to change plans.

 

ANC staff are eager to point out that VA cemeteries are available. However, full military honors with caisson are not available at most VA cemeteries.

 

The fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act directed the Army secretary to establish revised eligibility criteria to keep the cemetery functioning as an active burial ground for 150 years. The proposed changes to eligibility are service- and mission-discriminatory and do not account for all-important military honors for those who would be forced to use a different cemetery.

 

Non-contiguous federal land is available for expansion of the cemetery, and continuation of military honors as noted above will matter intensely to families who maintain the rare propensity to serve. 

 

[RELATED: Read More About MOAA’s Recommendations for Arlington National Cemetery]

 

The nature of ANC eligibility changes is a matter of national conscience. This challenge is more than a math and geography problem, and it’s bigger than the Army. In a financial environment where DoD seeks to prioritize modernization over legacy systems, it is not surprising that the Army would choose a course of action to push more of the memorial mission to the VA. The greater problem is that a national cemetery is an enduring mission that will require non-contiguous expansion; expansion of ANC to other federal property will require funding from Congress … and your engagement.

 

MOAA will continue to encourage our members and others to comment. Click this link to go directly to the comment page, or you can read the full proposed rule at this link and make your comments there by clicking the “SUBMIT A FORMAL COMMENT” button in the upper right corner.

 

It is important for your comments to be yours alone, not the product of mass mailings. Use your own words – if applicable, explain what the changes will mean to you or to your family’s future plans.

 

What Is Next?

When the Federal Register public comment closes, it will take over a year to reconcile and resolve legal challenges before approval. Existing ANC standards will remain in effect during that time.

 

Intervention from elected officials may be required to change course for reduced eligibility for our national cemetery. Congressional staff members have already indicated It is not too early to reach out to your elected officials and voice your concerns. 

 

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About the Author

Lt. Col. Mark Belinsky, USA (Ret)
Lt. Col. Mark Belinsky, USA (Ret)

Belinsky retired in 2019 after serving 22 years, with overseas tours to Afghanistan, Iraq, the Republic of Korea, and Germany. He joined the MOAA team in 2019 as Director, Currently Serving and Retired Affairs.