PRUNTYTOWN—After decades the West Virginia National Cemetery will be getting a facelift that will help welcome individuals to the final resting place for American heroes and their families.
In March, C & C Construction, in conjunction with numerous subcontractors, broke ground on the project that will provide upgrades and improvements to the cemetery’s entrance, including the addition of visitor parking, a new committal shelter and the addition of cortege lanes for funeral processions.
According to West Virginia National Cemetery Director Keith Barnes, the adding of the cortege lanes was a much-needed improvement for the cemetery.
“Cortege lanes provide an area for incoming funeral processions to pull into, while individuals organize and wait to proceed into the cemetery,” he explained. “Before, we didn’t have a designated area for them to utilize while waiting for the procession to gather before traveling up the hill, so they would pull in front of the administrative building.”
Many times, larger funeral processions would filter out onto US Route 50, George Washington Highway, while lining up, making the chance for an accident to occur even greater.
“Now, with the addition of the cortege lanes, funeral homes will have a designated area to bring between 30-40 cars fully inside the cemetery and off the main roadway,” Barnes noted.
Those waiting in a procession may be taken to a newly constructed committal shelter, where loved ones will be honored with graveside services and military rites. Barnes shared that while there is already one committal shelter on the hillside, another at the entry level of the cemetery would provide a place to gather in the event of foul weather.
“With the addition of the new shelter, we will have additional space to hold services for the fallen heroes and their families that will be interred here,” Barnes said. “We will continue to use the existing shelter as the weather permits.”
In addition to the creation of a designated space for funeral processions and a new location to host graveside services, the West Virginia National Cemetery’s administrative building will receive a complete overhaul.
Barnes revealed that the existing building was constructed in 1989, just two years after the dedication of the cemetery. The new building’s exterior will mirror that of the three-decade old building that stood in its place, but the interior will be undergo a transformation.
“While the outside will look familiar, the inside will be completely restructured and expanded with a brand-new look,” Barnes disclosed.
When laying to rest their veterans, families will have an additional option once the erection of a new columbarium is complete. This new feature to the cemetery will afford individuals with a choice for the eternal resting place of their loved one’s cremated remains.
“A columbarium is an above ground wall that houses cremated remains. Prior to this addition to the cemetery, the only burial option for cremated remains was ground burial,” Barnes explained. “Now families will have the option to have their loved one interred in a traditional ground burial or with the columbarium.”
While the major construction project, which is being funded through the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, has been underway since March, it is unclear when it may be finished.
“At this point, it is hard to tell when construction may be complete,” Barnes disclosed. “It could be as soon as next April, but with construction projects, you just never know because of factors like weather.”
Guests are still welcome at the cemetery but are asked to keep an eye out for workers while visiting.
“We appreciate our visitors’ patience as we complete this project,” Barnes expressed. “As the work progresses, there should be less blockage of the roadways, which hasn’t been too bad so far. But I’m sure that on occasion, people have had to wait briefly for construction vehicle to maneuver throughout the cemetery.”
He would also like to remind those traveling past the cemetery to be cautious of their speed, as construction crews are entering and exiting the grounds frequently.
“People need to be careful when driving passed the cemetery along Route 50,” Barned voiced. “The speed limit is 40 miles per hour, and with large equipment coming in and leaving the cemetery throughout the day, there is an increased hazard. We have also noted drivers who tend to look over to check out the work being complete. We just want everyone to be a little more cautious when traveling through the area.”