I arrived at Fort Jackson National Cemetery mid-morning. The grounds look very different from the site we visited late the afternoon before. Beaufort’s appearance has been tempered by the effect of time on trees and headstones and vintage brick. Fort Jackson, on the other hand, is commanding. Although still under construction, its buildings and features already have a stately presence—like the halls of university campus, and quite distinct from Beaufort.
Others share my general impression. Director Gene Linxwiler says: “When you’ve seen one cemetery in the NCA . . . you’ve seen one cemetery in the NCA.” During his seven-year tenure with us, he’s spent time in enough of them to know. Leading up to this current assignment in South Carolina, he’s worked at national cemeteries in Texas, New Mexico, Nebraska, Oregon and Mississippi.
As Fort Jackson’s first director, he’s responsible for the administration, maintenance and burial operations here, including outreach to the surrounding community. Over the past 18 months, he and the staff have attended more than 100 events around the region to talk with individuals and groups about VA burial benefits, the cemetery and its mission of honoring Veterans and their families with final resting places in national shrines.
In 2010—the first full year of cemetery burial operations—450 interments were conducted. Through June 2011, 405 have already been completed, so it seems the outreach efforts are having an impact. We expect the interment rate to increase over the next several years as the new cemetery becomes fully established in the community.
The cemetery is situated along the northeast corner of U.S. Army Training Center, Fort Jackson. The installation trains about half of all soldiers entering the Army each year. The cemetery is being built on 585 acres of land transferred to VA by the Army, and the director says he continues to receive great support from his neighbors at the fort.
Despite the cemetery’s newness, virtually every vista features a backdrop of tall pines. Trees are integral to the cemetery’s design; for instance, visitors will be encouraged to navigate from the administration building to the columbarium plaza along a forested memorial walkway. Once the staff moves into the building, the temporary trailers now housing them will be removed and the area will be reforested.
Below are photographs of the Fort Jackson National Cemetery.
Ron Walters is VA’s Acting Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs and Chief Financial Officer of the National Cemetery Administration. This is the sixth in his ten-part series exploring Veterans cemeteries in the southeastern U.S. Next: Florence National Cemetery: Confederate Prison Site.