NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A local veterans cemetery is expanding.
The Albert G. Horton, Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery in Suffolk received a $10.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Governor Ralph Northam and other officials came together at the cemetery for a special groundbreaking ceremony.
“To have $10.2 million to expand, that’s a real shot in the arm and we’re real appreciative of that,” Northam said.
Northam, who is also a veteran, said the commonwealth is working to be the most veteran friendly state in the country.
He acknowledged Virginia’s end of veteran homelessness and hiring of more than 36,000 veterans for jobs.
This just adds to that.
“We’re doing things to make sure veterans are cared for in Virginia. They have jobs. Their families are taken care of, but one of the things we don’t think of is where will the final resting places for veterans be?” he said.
The cemetery in Suffolk is one of three state run veteran cemeteries.
There are four national veteran cemeteries, including Hampton National, which is not taking any new business, according to Dan Kemano, the Department of Veterans Services’ director of cemeteries.
Kemano said the fill up of that cemetery is why Horton Memorial was opened in 2004.
“We were told in boot camp these where your benefits, this, this, and this. One of them was a burial,” he said.
Since opening, the cemetery has buried 11,500 veterans and their spouses.
And that number won’t slow down anytime soon.
“We’ve got a considerable amount of burials and that’s for the next 60 plus years,” he said.
The expansion, which is third for the cemetery, will include the addition of 8,000 double depth concrete outer burial counters, or “crypts.”
Kemano said that workers usually will dig each plot when it’s time for a funeral and that it was a lot of labor.
The new “crypts” will cut down on that labor and allow for easier access.
Kemano said that their offices will also be expanded, a new fence will go up on Milsner Road, the front entrance will be remodeled, and a new sign installed.
He believes this will take about a year to complete.
Kemano said all their rules and eligibilities are the same as the national cemeteries and the state is working to have places for veterans to be buried within 75 miles of every veteran.