Expansion at Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen is making steady progress as crews prepare to bury new vaults that hold up to four bodies, officials said.

Hundreds of the cement vaults can be seen above ground amid the $4.9 million renovation at the cemetery off State Highway 195.

Cemetery Director Charles Walden Jr. said similar vaults already house thousands of veterans’ bodies at the cemetery.

“There’s not any difference in these or the ones in the past,” Walden said. “It’s going to be identical.”

Emerson Construction Co. is under contract work to set the vaults, which includes leveling the ground so water doesn’t collect under the base of the shells, setting the shell in place, leveling again, putting in partitions, if necessary, and covering the shells, Walden said.

Bobby Jones, Emerson’s superintendent of the Central Texas project, said the expansion includes 2,000 vaults with space for 8,000 bodies.

Andy Hogue, spokesman for the Texas General Land Office, said each concrete shell holds up to four bodies; and each shell is divided into two crypts by a vertical, heavy plastic partition.

Horizontal partitions may separate lower bodies from upper bodies. Each crypt has its own individual cement cap, Hogue said.

“The design is consistent with (Veterans Affairs) standards,” he said.

Jean Shine, president of the nonprofit Friends of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery group that lays wreaths at the cemetery’s gravesites, said she doesn’t know how the final design will look, but knows some cemeteries place individuals on top of each other.

“I love that both of my parents are together at Fort Sam Houston,” Shine said.

Walden said all veterans who served or were honorably discharged are eligible for burial in the Central Texas cemetery. Spouses of the veterans with marriage licenses also are eligible for burial along with dependent children younger than 18.

The cemetery works with the funeral homes to arrange burial, he said.

“Each two-person crypt is treated as a separate space,” Hogue said, explaining the first body goes in the lower space of each crypt.

All of the crypt spaces are numbered, and spaces will be marked with regular upright monuments, Walden said.

In addition to the new burial crypts, the expansion project also includes capstones of buildings where ashes are kept and concrete support sleeves for existing and future headstones.

Resodding the turf, planting new bushes and trees, dedicating an area for the scattering of ashes and repaving the surface of the memorial walkway also are part of the project, which is funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We’re working hard to ensure that future generations may come here and continue the tradition of honoring those who served our country,” said Eric Brown, director of State Veterans Cemeteries for the Texas Veterans Land Board.

Walden said the expansion project is on schedule, with completion expected in November or December.

Contact Rachael Riley at rriley@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7553

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