Editor's note: An earlier version of this story did not correctly identify the previous owner of land given for an additional cemetery planned to be built in 2014.
A major $2 million expansion project that will add more than 1,000 new burial plots has begun at the last section of available land in Mountain Home National Cemetery, though what will essentially be a whole new cemetery is planned to be created in a few years.
The $2.12 million project began recently and will add 1,447 burial spaces. These plots will have crypts pre-placed in the ground.
“Basically, we are creating an additional burial section,” cemetery Director Donnie Sisk said.
These plots in pre-placed crypt sections are smaller than plots without the crypts pre-placed, which allows more veterans the opportunity to be buried at Mountain Home.
And, because the grave has already been dug and a crypt placed, burial crews only have to dig down two feet when opening up a grave for a new burial.
“It’s kind of like you’re putting the vault in the ground before you need it,” Sisk said.
The pre-placed crypt method allows for easier internments and makes the best use of available cemetery land, Sisk said.
The new section is scheduled to be completed by October but it will likely be ready before that time, Sisk said.
An additional portion of this $2.12 million project will include the realignment of headstones in one of the cemetery sections. Headstones are required to be lined linearly and diagonally to within one-eighth inch for national cemeteries. The markers in this section are not in a straight line.
This new section being created now is the last remaining space for burials at the old cemetery, though a major expansion is planned to begin in 2014 on the other side of the Veterans Affairs Mountain Home campus that will create what will essentially be a whole new cemetery. This 50-acre tract of land is green space now with some old trees. It was acquired from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center a few years ago. The hospital and cemetery are adjacent on the Mountain Home campus.
The new section under construction now will accommodate about three or four years’ worth of burials, Sisk said, which should allow enough time for the new cemetery on the other side of the VA campus to be ready.
This project is planned to include pre-placed crypt graves, a new administration building, a new maintenance building and perhaps a columbarium, which is an above-ground structure for storing cinerary urns.
The design phase for this new addition was planned for this year, with construction planned for 2014. This project could cost $10 million.
The original cemetery was established in 1903 and comprised about 40 acres, so the addition of 50 acres more than doubles the size of the Mountain Home cemetery.