More than ever, veterans are opting for cremation while national cemeteries add more space. For families, cremation means more time and mobility with the ashes. The addition of burial spots is part of the largest push since the Civil War, according to VA officials.
Nationwide, about 38 percent of veterans choose cremation. In Florida, about double that figure choose it over burial. For one, families do not have to make a decision as they would when a body is prepared for burial. Families only have a few days to make arrangements for a traditional burial.
Also, ashes and urns are more easily moved from one cemetery to another. Given the ease and frequency of moves nowadays, this mobility is a money saver. Caskets are not cheap to move. The trend is not exclusive to fallen heroes.
U.S. data proves that cremations’ popularity has grown significantly since 1976 when 6 percent of funeral services involved cremation. By 2002, that percentage increased to 27 percent. Last year, it was 35 percent, according to U.S. Census data.
Of course, cremated remains occupy far less space than caskets. Furthermore, they can be buried in urns or kept above ground. Veterans’ urns often get ornamented with military insignias. The trend toward cremations comes on the heels of cemeteries around the country adding burial sites of all kinds.
Sarasota National Cemetery is a shining example. After its creation two years ago, the cemetery is getting $15.9 million to add more 27,000 spaces. Set to be complete by summer 2012 the additions include 11,500 casket sites, 9,000 in-ground burial plots for urns and 7,000 above-ground spots for urns.
The cemetery in Sarasota is one of six new ones that popped up in the last three years. Plans for more national cemeteries are under way, said Chris Erbe, spokesman for the VA. The 2003 National Cemetery Expansion Act called on the VA to build national cemeteries where there are large veteran populations. In addition to Sarasota, Philadelphia, Bakersfield, Calif. And Birmingham, Ala. are home to new burial sites. Erbe said the construction of new cemeteries is not the result of a space shortage, just a bigger plan.