Charleston District completed expansion of the 20-acre Fort Jackson National Cemetery this year. The newly-expanded cemetery includes more than 5,000 pre-placed crypts, 2,000 cremation sites, hundreds of traditional burial sites and a committal shelter.
Charleston District completed expansion of the 20-acre Fort Jackson National Cemetery this year. The newly-expanded cemetery includes more than 5,000 pre-placed crypts, 2,000 cremation sites, hundreds of traditional burial sites and a committal shelter. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration honors the military service of our nation's Veterans by providing a dignified burial and a lasting memorial for our nation’s heroes. With over 150 national cemeteries across the country, creating a final resting place and commemorating their extraordinary service to our nation is a top priority for the NCA.

Charleston District had the privilege of awarding a design-build project for the Fort Jackson National Cemetery Phase II Expansion. The 20-acre project provides 5,632 pre-placed crypts, 2,376 in-ground cremains sites, 729 traditional burial sites, a committal shelter, and supporting infrastructure which includes roads, utilities, landscaping, and irrigation consistent with completed initial phase infrastructure.

First developed in 2009, the 585‐acre national cemetery is in Richland County just off of I‐20 on property formerly held by Fort Jackson. Burial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the Armed Forces who have met a minimum active-duty service requirement and were discharged under honorable conditions. A Veteran’s spouse, widow or widower, minor dependent children and, under certain conditions, unmarried adult children with disabilities may also be eligible for burial in the grounds.

This project was awarded in spring 2020 to Boyer Construction. In addition to their expertise in cemetery design, their team included seven military veterans representing the Army, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, all who had collectively served 130 months in combat operations since 9/11. Most of the project team members and subcontractors assigned to the project had ties to the Columbia area, as well as the veteran community. The district’s project manager, Robert Sorenson, spent 14 years serving veterans at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Clinic before joining the District 18 months ago.

“Having veterans and those who have served veterans assigned to oversee the cemetery expansion was really special to see,” said Sorenson. “You get a sense of extra care and attention when fellow veterans are involved.”

The project had several challenges, the first being the ongoing pandemic. Construction during pandemic was difficult, but the team adhered to all safety protocols to keep the project moving — especially since NCA was worried about burial plots becoming depleted. Other challenges included harvesting timber, sweeping the site for unexploded ordinance, the demanding requirements for crypts and the establishment of the sod.

“The teaming and partnership between USACE Charleston District, National Cemetery Administration and Boyer was a testament that working together to accomplish a project on budget, on time and with excellent quality during unprecedented times of an ongoing pandemic is possible,” said Mike Roth, Director of NCA Design and Construction Service. “Everyone’s commitment to serving the veteran community in the Columbia area was clear. No challenge or obstacle was too great to deliver the cemetery expansion.”

Sorenson said he learned a great deal about sod with this project. The sod was laid during the winter months and with a colder than normal spring, the roots did not take hold until May. Extensive maintenance had to be done, including weeding, fertilizing, cutting and edging, to make sure the turf was beautiful and fitting of a special place that meets the national shrine standards and expands a world-class cemetery.

Even amid the challenges of working through the height of the covid-19 pandemic, the team proved resilient, focusing on USACE’s three key initiatives: strong partnering relationships, managing risk and effective management practices.

The project adhered to an aggressive timeline to ensure Fort Jackson National Cemetery is capable to continue burial operations through the foreseeable future. In keeping with the spirit of the USACE’s motto — Essayons, “let us try” — the project was completed on time and within budget.