San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery expansion includes columbarium

SANTA NELLA, Calif. (KFSN) -- On this Memorial Day, many are remembering their loved ones for their service and sacrifice.

In Santa Nella in Merced County, American flags are planted next to the 46,000 souls who rest at the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery.

"Today's about honoring and remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and allowing us to enjoy the things we do on a daily with our friends and family," said Dallas Keller, while visiting his brother Kenny, who fought in the Iraq War.

"It's an amazing place, just the level of respect laid out for everyone that's here, it's special," Keller added.

Nearby, the ground is being prepared for construction.

The military cemetery is expanding for the first time since it opened in 1992 with the addition of a concrete columbarium burial plaza with more than 3,500 niches, walkways, and a trellis overhead.

"Everybody has a different way of mourning or remembering their loved one, so I think it's nice to have another option," said Pedro Gonzalez who has been visiting his brother at San Joaquin National Cemetery for seven years.

The $3 million columbarium project is expected to be ready for interments by January, according to Frederick Bryant, the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery director.

"They've been pushing for these columbariums for years and it's finally happening," said Steve Brand, the cemetery caretaker. "We're very excited."

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.