Two Civil War Unknown Soldiers are laid to rest, marking the first ground burials in the area
ARLINGTON, VA - Arlington National Cemetery dedicated its Millennium site yesterday during a ceremony in Section 81 of the 27-acre expansion project. The opening of this site meets the cemetery’s long-term goal of optimizing interment space that is contiguous with the existing cemetery in order to maintain future active operations and preserve the Arlington National Cemetery experience.
“We are proud to officially unveil this beautiful new part of the cemetery that provides the additional capacity needed to sustain active burial operations for the next quarter century,” said Army National Military Cemeteries Executive Director Karen Durham-Aguilera.
Along with the ceremonial opening of Millennium sections 77-84 yesterday, the ceremony included an unveiling of two street signs of roads that connect these new sections with the cemetery and a dignified burial for two Civil War Unknown Soldiers recently discovered at the Manassas Battlefield National Park in Manassas, Virginia.
“The remains of these soldiers will soon rest alongside other great American veterans in this hallowed ground,” said National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith, who provided key note remarks during the ceremony.
The contributions of two U.S. heroes were honored yesterday as street signs were dedicated in their names. The two new streets recognize U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Jonathan W. Gifford and Ida Lewis, U.S. Lighthouse Service (later absorbed into the U.S. Coast Guard). Gifford was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his heroic actions in Afghanistan June 29, 2012. He is the second enlisted member and the first U.S. Marine to be honored with a street name at Arlington National Cemetery. Lewis is the first female and first representative of the U.S. Coast Guard to be honored with a street name at Arlington National Cemetery.
Background on the Millennium Site:
The Millennium project was conceived in the 1990s to help extend the life of the cemetery as an active burial ground. It consists of 27 acres, parts of which were transferred from the National Park Service from existing cemetery land and from Fort Myer. The construction contract was awarded Sept. 24, 2013, and during the last five years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and many contractors worked diligently to complete this critical project.
Millennium provides 27,282 new interment spaces that are located either above or below ground. Columbarium courts will offer 16,400 above-ground niche spaces for cremated remains, while the 10,882 in-ground burials will be split between traditional and over-sized burials (1,422), in-ground cremated remains (3,189), and pre-placed concrete grave-liners (6,271). Arlington National Cemetery hopes to be able to schedule up to three funeral services each day in this new area of the cemetery.
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