FORT JACKSON, S.C. (Army News Service, Nov. 17, 2006) - Fort Jackson has been selected as the site for a new national cemetery to be established as a result of the National Cemetery Expansion Act of 2003.
The announcement came during the city of Columbia's Veterans Day Parade Friday by South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson and Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs, William F. Tuerk.
"There are so many wonderful things that can be done for veterans, but to have a national cemetery shows respect for the people who make it possible for us to enjoy the freedoms we have today," Wilson said. "One of the finest recognitions you can give to veterans is to have a place of permanent repose."
Construction is slated to begin in fiscal 2008, with interments beginning about a year after that.
"We seek to be not just a memorial for the veterans who have passed on, but also a place of honor, a place to honor the veterans who are among us today," Tuerk said. "This is going to be the site of a national shrine. The (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) thanks the community for the opportunity to establish this national shrine."
The legislation directed the secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a national cemetery in the Greenville/Columbia area. The planned location of the cemetery is the northern point of Fort Jackson, near Percival Road.
"It's a beautiful piece of land. It's near I-20, but not too near," Tuerk said. "We can get traffic from the interstate without the noise, and it's close to the population center."
Brig. Gen. James H. Schwitters, Fort Jackson commanding general, stressed the importance of the Army's Warrior Ethos, particularly that a Soldier should never leave a fallen comrade.
"I feel that this is very fitting for Army land to be set aside as a tribute and celebration of veterans," Schwitters said.
World War II veterans are dying at the rate of 1,000 a day, Tuerk said.
"My goal is to get this cemetery open while members of my dad's generation of veterans - the greatest generation, World War II veterans - are still with us," Tuerk said.