Virginia Capitol Connections Winter 2022

Over 2,200 veterans and their families chose one of Virginia’s three state veterans cemeteries as their final resting place in Fiscal Year (FY) 2021. These cemeteries—the Virginia Veterans Cemetery in Amelia, the Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery in Dublin, and the Albert G. Horton, Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery in Suffolk—are operated by the Virginia Department of Veterans Services (VDVS) This represented a 24% increase over FY2020. More and more families chose to use their veterans’ burial benefits because of the huge savings (over $10K) vs. burial in a private cemetery. State veterans cemeteries are developed in phases. To ensure that space is continually available for both casket and cremation burials, Virginia works closely with the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (USDVA) to plan for future expansion projects, which are funded mainly through grants from the NCA’s Veterans Cemetery Grant Program (VCGP). The VCGP provides grants to state and tribal veterans cemeteries for initial development and expansion projects, as well as operational maintenance grants for equipment and infrastructure. In 2019, the Albert G. Horton, Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery in Suffolk completed a $10.3M expansion project that added nearly 2,000 columbaria niches for above-ground cremation burials, 10,000 pre-placed concrete burial crypts for in-ground casketed burials, and other improvements to the administration building and cemetery grounds. This was the largest federal grant ever provided to expand a state veterans cemetery. In October 2021, NCA announced that it plans to award 14 grants to state and tribal veterans cemeteries in FY2022, with Virginia expected to receive $1.8M in federal grant funding for columbaria expansion projects at the Virginia Veterans Cemetery (Amelia) and the Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery (Dublin). With cremation rates reaching approximately 45% in Virginia, the above ground cremated interment option has become increasingly “Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land, and their loyalty to high ideals.” Sir William Gladstone Virginia State Veterans Cemeteries By JAMES O. ICENHOUR, JR. AND MICHAEL HENSHAW ICENHOUR HENSHAW 24