contributed by Melissa Lucas, senior staff writer
A U.S. national cemetery is a military cemetery that contains the graves of U.S. military personnel, veterans, and sometimes their spouses or dependents.
The authority to create U.S. military cemeteries arose during the Civil War, in 1862. It’s unclear which was the very first, but within six months of congressional approval for a national cemetery system, 14 national cemeteries had been established.
There are a total of 171 national cemeteries located in the U.S., and an additional 26 U.S. national military cemeteries outside of the country.
The National Cemetery Administration maintains the majority of the national cemeteries across the country. However, a few national cemeteries are located within national parks, battlefields, and historic sites. These are maintained by the National Park Service. Finally, the Department of the Army maintains two – Arlington National Cemetery and the United States Soldiers and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery.
Note: the American Battle Monuments Commission – an independent agency – maintains the 26 national cemeteries outside of the U.S.
Each administration maintains a list of the cemeteries under their provision.
That said, Wikipedia actually has a helpful list of all national cemeteries in one place.
Riverside National Cemetery, located in Riverside, CA, is the largest national cemetery. It spans 1236 acres.
The National POW/MIA Memorial at Riverside National Cemetery.
Image via wikipedia.org
Note: The smallest national cemetery is the Hampton Veterans Affairs Medical Center National Cemetery in Hampton, VA. It is just under 1/3 acre.
There is! You can tell a bit about the general era from which a grave originated simply by its size and shape. And there are specific markers, plaques, and headstones available to our service men and women buried in national cemeteries, today.
There are just a few pieces of information permitted on military grave markers in national cemeteries. Always included is name, date of birth, and date of death. If applicable, the following can also be included: service branch, war service, rank, specialty, and Medal of Honor insignia.
Yes. It took some time, but eventually soldiers fighting for the Confederacy were allowed to be buried in national cemeteries. Confederate graves are marked with the Southern Cross of Honor.
In fact, they are. Over 5.4 million people visit national cemeteries every year.
Arlington National Cemetary
Image via www.arlingtoncemetery.mil
Because Arlington National Cemetery is maintained by the U.S. Army instead of the National Cemetery Administration, it is often omitted when discussing national cemeteries. However, it may be the most famous of all historic cemeteries in the United States.
As Civil War casualties began to outnumber available gravesites in Washington, D.C., the need for a national cemetery in the area became glaringly apparent. Arlington National Cemetery was established in May of 1864 and tens of thousands of Union Soldiers were buried at Arlington in the years that followed. Many high-ranking military and government officials continue to be interned here today, thus making it the most well-known cemetery of its kind.
Burial in a national cemetery is free to most veterans as well as spouses and some dependent children. Burial benefits through the Veterans Administration include opening and closing of the grave, ongoing care and maintenance, a government headstone or grave marker, a burial flag, and a memorial certificate. Visit the National Cemetery Administration’s webpage for more details on Veteran and dependent burial benefits.
Use the National Cemetery Administration’s gravesite locator tool. Enter the information you know (last name, birthdate, etc.) and the tool will return a list of veterans buried in a U.S. national cemetery which meet the same criteria.
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