Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

National Cemetery a Plus for Families of Veterans; Now There Are Preparations for Expected Increase in Burials

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

National Cemetery a Plus for Families of Veterans; Now There Are Preparations for Expected Increase in Burials

Article excerpt

Byline: Jeff Brumley

Mother and son searched and searched for a relative's grave among the hundreds of standardized, white military markers at Jacksonville National Cemetery on Monday.

"I remember it being on an angle from my father's grave," Bobby Tucker said from one section while his mother scoured another for the resting place of her brother, who was buried there in February.

"They've put so many more [graves] in here since then," Ella Bell Tucker said.

So many that two members of Congress toured the 559-acre facility on Monday to learn about ongoing preparations for an anticipated growth in burials, now about 20 a week.

The cemetery opened in 2009 and already is host to more than 1,000 deceased veterans. Officials say it has greatly relieved pressure on the nearest national cemetery, located in Bushnell, and has already proven to be a major convenience to veterans and their families in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia.

They expect the pace to increase as word spreads about the facility. They hope to open the next phase of the complex by Memorial Day, depending on an ongoing re-sodding project.

The phase includes a 1,400-square-foot administration and welcome center with a reflective pool, a maintenance center and more than 5,000 crypts and storage space for urns.

"It's going to be a landslide because a large number of people are holding ashes" awaiting the opening of that phase, Dan Hughes, chairman of the cemetery's advisory committee, told U.S. Reps. Ander Crenshaw and Corrine Brown.

Hughes briefed them on a plan to build a $24 million, two-lane road from Pecan Park Road to the cemetery entrance on Lannie Road, which is north of Jacksonville International Airport. Plans are also under way for private funds to be used to construct a military memorial building on Veterans Affairs land across the street from the cemetery. …

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