The $10 million project includes a new administration building — surrounded by a green, lush lawn with a view of Buffalo Mountain — a committal shelter and a maintenance complex. It’s the first part of a three-phase project that will ultimately encompass 50 acres along East Lake Drive near the West State of Franklin Road VA entrance.
“Once fully developed, this area is expected to provide 50 years of gravesite availability,” Cemetery Director Jeny Walker said. The first phase covers 10 years of burial needs for Mountain Home, she said. “The administration building faces Buffalo Mountain of the Appalachian Mountain range. What a beautiful view for our patrons’ families. We’re so excited to finally have it completed.”
The Mountain Home National Cemetery staff have already moved into the new offices and are working there while managing both sites. The project began immediately after a July 27, 2016, groundbreaking ceremony and had a tentative completion set for January 2018. The contractor, C&C Contractors, from Nostasulga, Alabama, a veteran-owned business, had several rain delays which extended the finish time to May 31.
Planning for the first of a three-phase, 50-acre project began nine years before the groundbreaking in 2016. The original cemetery has a long, rich history that stems back to the first burial in 1903. More than 16,114 people — veterans and some non-veteran spouses — are laid to rest in the original 41-acre compound.
The cemetery expansion includes spaces for 1,400 casket grave sites and 700 spots for cremains. Seven veterans have already been buried in the cremains section, but casket burials will continue to occur at the original cemetery until that space is full. Walker said casket burials at the new cemetery could start as early as next year.
A dedication ceremony and open house event is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday, and the public is invited to attend. Randy C. Reeves, Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs, will be the keynote speaker, and local veterans groups — including Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 979 Color Guard, and American Legion Post No. 3 and No. 265 Honor Guard — will participate. The East Tennessee State University brass trio will provide a selection of patriotic music for the event.
There will be a reception after the dedication ceremony as well as tours of the new location. Buildings on the site include administrative offices, a maintenance facility and a new committal shelter.
A reception will follow Thursday’s ceremony as well as tours of the annex, which includes new administration and maintenance buildings as well as a new committal shelter and burial space. Due to limited space, only handicapped parking will be available at the annex. A shuttle to and from the ceremony will be available beginning at 10 a.m. from the ETSU campus parking lot on the corner of Memorial Avenue and Ashe Street and Fifth Street and Gold Star Boulevard. There will be signs to direct attendees to the proper parking areas.
The next phase of the entire expansion project will be at the original cemetery site and includes in-ground irrigation and a new information building for grave locations, restrooms and water fountains.