ARLINGTON, Va. -- Arlington National Cemetery will dedicate its ninth columbarium court here today.
Officials will mark the dedication of Columbarium Court No. 9 with a joint, full-honors committal service for six unclaimed remains of veterans from all branches of military.
"I can't think of a better way to dedicate this hallowed ground than by honoring these forgotten heroes who until now, did not have a resting place befitting their service and sacrifice," said Kathryn A. Condon, executive director of Army National Military Cemeteries.
The new columbarium contains 20,296 niches which can hold three to four urns each. The structure is two-and-a-half times bigger than Arlington's next largest columbarium. The $15.6 million construction project, overseen by the Norfolk District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, began in January 2012. The contractor, Washington D.C.-based Forrester Construction Company, completed the project April 30, 2013 – three months ahead of schedule.
"Without the Columbarium Court No. 9 expansion, Arlington National Cemetery would have run out of niche space in 2016,” Condon said. “By adding more than 20,000 niche spaces for our veterans and their families, Columbarium Court No. 9 is extending the life of the cemetery for years to come."
More than 6,000 cubic yards of poured-in-place concrete were used to build the structure, which is approximately 116 feet wide, 11 feet tall and 540 feet long - nearly the length of two football fields.
"I've worked on hundreds of projects in 20 years, but all you have to do is stand here and take this place in," said Pete Reilly, the District's program manager for Arlington National Cemetery. "There's no other place like this in the country and saying it's an 'honor' to build this project doesn't do it justice."
Arlington National Cemetery honors the legacy of fallen service members, veterans and their families through military burial and inurnment services.
Arlington officials partnered with the Missing in America Project to identify the six unclaimed remains, who will be the first inurnments in the ninth columbarium court. MIAP is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit corporation that locates, identifies and inters the unclaimed cremated remains of American veterans.