By Sadef Ali Kully
The Veteran Affairs St. Albans Community Living Center has been chosen as one of the five cremation-only facilities that will be constructed across the nation, the VA’s National Cemetery Administration announced during a public meeting at the center last week.
Columbaria are vaults with recesses within the wall to receive the ashes of the dead or funeral urns.
The columbaria project in St. Albans will serve nearly 520,000 veterans within the city, according to Veteran Affairs.
“It is important to understand that this is really a memorial site for veterans and their families,” the spokesman for Veteran Affairs National Cemetery Administration said. “The residents and visitors of the St. Albans Community Living Center will have no impact outside of visiting the columbaria.”
One of the concerns raised was the location of the entrance to the columbaria, which will be away from the main entrance, according to the NCA.
Following a 2008 study, VA’s National Cemetery Administration began the “Urban Initiative” to locate columbarium facilities in most densely populated areas where veteran national cemeteries removed from the city center make them hard to reach by veterans and their families.
The cities chosen are more than 50 miles and at least an hour’s drive time from existing national cemeteries. The VA St. Albans Community Living Center is one of five columbaria-only facilities where the federal Department of Veteran Affairs VA seeks to build the columbari. Other cities across the country are Los Angeles, Chicago, Indianapolis and San Francisco.
New York City has one veteran national cemetery located in Brooklyn and two veteran national cemeteries located in Long Island.
The VA chose cremation-only burial facilities to increase access for urban populations after reports showed that there was an increase in cremations. In 2014, 51.8 percent of national cemetery burials were cremations, up from 43.2% in 2012. These numbers are projected to increase as cremation rates continue to increase, according to the VA.
Those eligible for veteran cemetery services are veterans with other than dishonorable discharges, their spouse and minor, dependent children for burial in any open veteran national cemetery, including columbaria services.
Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull