The nation's newest national veterans cemetery was dedicated last week at Fort Jackson – the first of six national veterans cemeteries approved under legislation signed by President Bush in 2003.
A formal entryway to the sprawling 585-acre cemetery was the site of the dedication, with the remainder to be completed in stages over the years. In all, the cemetery is expected to accommodate up to 25,000 graves.
The new cemetery is on the northern edge of Fort Jackson's 52,000 acres. The first 92-acre section will have 5,649 sites for full caskets, space for 4,224 crypts, 1,084 in-ground cremation sites and 2,000 columbarium niches.
Shelters for funeral services, an administration and public information center, maintenance facilities and other support buildings will also be included in the initial construction.
The need for the new cemetery has come as the pace of deaths among aging veterans increases.
There are two other national cemeteries in Florence and Beaufort. Recently a state veterans cemetery was opened in Anderson.
More than 413,000 veterans live in South Carolina, with about a third in the Midlands region.
National cemeteries also are planned for Sarasota and Jacksonville, Fla.; Birmingham, Ala.; Philadelphia; and Bakersfield, Calif.
Overall, the Veterans Administration has 125 national cemeteries in its system.