“It’s so exciting to see the progress,” Walker said Wednesday. “There are three buildings up and under roof, we’ll have sod this week and some of the roads are paved; the flag pole is up, and that’s all really made it starting looking like a cemetery.”
Rain delayed contractors earlier this year, but Walker said C&C Contractors remain committed to the Jan. 18 finish date. The expansion includes spaces for 1,400 regular gravesites and 700 spots for cremains. Concrete liners are already in place and ready for burials, which Walker said would begin at the new site next year.
The current cemetery has space for about 48 cremated remains and 530 casket grave sites. Buildings on the site include administrative offices, a maintenance facility and a committal shelter. After phase one is compete, phase two work will begin at the original cemetery site and will include in-ground irrigation and a new information building for grave locations, restrooms and water fountains.
Mountain Home opened in 1903 with its 36 French Renaissance-style buildings. The Mountain Home Branch of the National Homes was the ninth, and last, of its kind funded by Congress to care for Union veterans of the Civil War. In 1973, it was transferred to the Veterans Administration, and the home cemetery became a national cemetery. In 2011 it was designated as part of the Mountain Home Branch-National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers National Historic Landmark district.
Burials, or interments, at Mountain Home began in September 1903 after the death of Francis Conaty, a veteran who lived in the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. Until 1973, hospital patients and veterans living in the domiciliary were primarily buried at Mountain Home. The current location, bordered by Veterans Way — previously named Sidney Street — and West Main Street, is the final resting place for more than 16,000 veterans. Spouses can also be buried there and are interred in the same grave.
“A national cemetery is built to provide a benefit to veterans,” Walker said. “Everything inside the gate is covered — opening and closing the grave, the concrete liner, a federal headstone and perpetual care.”
Walker said the cemetery provides “the final resting spot for those who have fought for our country. Every one of them have provided us with the freedom we enjoy. This is a way to always be able to appreciate what they’ve done for us.”
There are eligibility requirements to be buried at the national cemetery. Before Sept. 14, 1980, any veteran could be buried there as long as they did not have a dishonorable discharge. Since that date, there are more restrictions, including a required two years of service. There are also other criteria that must be met. More information is available by calling the cemetery office at 423-979-3535.