Horton project completePublished 9:54pm Wednesday, December 11, 2013
After the completion of a federally funded project, Suffolk’s Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery will provide concrete lawn crypts for veterans free of charge, cemetery director Dan R. Kemano says.
With $3.3 million from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Cemetery Administration, the cemetery on Milners Road has installed 4,090 double-depth outer burial container units. Each space is designed to protect from the elements two caskets containing a veteran and spouse.
The crypts are installed with their lids 22 inches below ground level, Kemano explained. A casket containing the first set of remains is placed at the bottom of a unit, and a shelf is placed atop that casket before the unit is resealed and the earth and sod replaced. The process is repeated when the surviving veteran or spouse passes, with the second casket placed atop the interior shelf.
“Now they are together in their final resting place,” Kemano said. Eligible dependent children can also qualify for interment, he added.
Previously, the crypts were available for between $400 and $1,200. They were $400 if purchased direct from the cemetery, which with another grant had been providing them at cost, but more expensive if purchased from a funeral home, Kemano said.
Virginia Veterans Cemetery at Amelia also received $1.6 million to provide 1,610 of the crypts.
In a news release, Paul Galanti, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, said it places Virginia’s veterans cemeteries on equal footing with national facilities.
“Pre-installation of outer burial containers will bring the benefits offered by Virginia’s state cemeteries in line with those offered by (national facilities) such as Quantico and Culpeper,” he said.
“Federal cemeteries provide outer burial containers to veterans at no cost, and now Virginia will be able to offer veterans the same benefit.”
Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery in Dublin opened with pre-installed crypts in 2011, unlike the Suffolk and Amelia cemeteries when they opened in 2004 and 1997, respectively.
The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation to provide lawn crypts at cost while awaiting the federal grant that now means there will be no charge for burials, except for a $300 administration fee for the spouse and/or dependent.
Kemano said the project was declared closed Wednesday after a final inspection, adding the new containers would start being used later this month.
At the Suffolk cemetery, the new containers rest among three peaceful gardens with green lawns and lines of trees.
Kemano expects the 4,090 units at the Horton cemetery to be available for eight or nine years and said he’ll submit additional grant requests to supply more as required.
Kemano says he wants to get the word out that veterans and their spouses and qualifying dependents can be buried in a state cemetery instead of a commercial cemetery.
“Veterans, by serving, have earned the right to be interred here,” he said.
The three new gardens encompass roughly nine of the Suffolk cemetery’s 74 acres, Kemano said.