WASHINGTON – Troops who die on active duty but not in combat would no longer be eligible for burial at Arlington National Cemetery, according to a proposal released Wednesday by the Army aimed at conserving space at the nation’s most hallowed ground for fallen troops.
Without changes to eligibility, the cemetery, home to the remains of privates and presidents, would run out of room in 30 years to inter even troops who have been awarded the Medal of Honor.
The new criteria for burial include troops killed in combat, recipients of the Silver Star or a higher award, wounded who have received the Purple Heart, former prisoners of war, presidents and vice presidents, and combat veterans who have exceptional records of public service.
The new eligibility rules at the cemetery also would allow certain veterans, including those from the World War II era, to be laid to rest at the cemetery in above-ground facilities.
Acting Army Sec. Ryan McCarthy also proposed setting aside 1,000 grave sites for recipients of the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award for valor.
“Arlington National Cemetery is a national shrine for all Americans, but especially those who have served our great nation,” McCarthy said in a statement. “We must ensure it can honor those we have lost for many years to come.”
Congress mandated the proposed rule changes, which will be open to public comment. Without changes to eligibility, the 155-year-old cemetery would be filled to capacity sometime after 2050.