West Point Cuts Ribbon on Cemetery Expansion

Category: Grad News
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By Desrae Gibby ’91, WPAOG Staff

On April 30, 2024, the West Point community celebrated the completion of the long-awaited expansion of the West Point Cemetery. LTG Steven Gilland ’90, 61st Superintendent, U.S. Military Academy (USMA), Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director, Office of Army Cemeteries, COL Alexander Young, commander, New York district U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE-NY), CSM Phil Barretto, USMA Command Sergeant Major and Jenifer McSwain, director of West­­ Point Cemetery, cut the ribbon. 

Also in attendance were BG John Lloyd, commander and division engineer of USACE, North Atlantic Division, COL (R) Matt Luzzatto ’97, former commander, USACE-NY and LTC (R) Adam Chalmers ’97 PE, project manager with HNTB corporation which assisted with the designs, along with USMA leadership, USMA chaplains, the West Point Band, West Point Association of Graduates (WPAOG) Memorial Support team members and other WPAOG staff.

Father Matthew P. Pawlikowski ’86, U.S. Corps of Cadets chaplain, opened the ceremony by singing “Taps” (composed by MG Daniel Butterfield who is buried in the old cemetery): “Day is done, gone the sun,… All is well, safely rest” and culminating with his blessing: “’Neath the sun, Neath the stars, ‘Neath the sky, As we go, this we know, God is nigh.”

LTG Gilland emphasized that the West Point Cemetery can now provide the needed resting places for the Long Gray Line “for decades to come,” while continuing to be “a solemn and sacred place..to draw strength and inspiration from exemplars of selfless service and the…ideals of Duty, Honor, Country.” He also acknowledged the hard work of the “team of teams” that brought the project to fruition: the Office of Army Cemeteries, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the West Point Garrison and Directorate of Public Works, and scores of engineers, real property specialists, environmental specialists, and others.

COL Young said the cemetery had honored the legacies of 9396 of our “military’s finest leaders” whose “stories resonate through time inspiring us with their valor and resilience.” After speaking of the old cemetery’s historic roots, he said the new addition would “embrace the future and meet contemporary needs” with the additional 3,492 graves (836 standard crypts, 32 larger crypts, 2,156 burial crypts for cremated remains, and 468 niches). He then described obstacles, “some of the toughest engineering challenges across West Point and our entire portfolio” that his team had to conquer, including the extreme slope mitigation. The July 2023 flooding tested their skills, but their hard work and ingenuity was proven when the micropiles withstood the “one-in-a-thousand-year storm.” In addition, to safeguarding the site his team sought to make it “inviting and accessible, with “improved pedestrian pathways, facilities for individuals with disabilities, modern restrooms, and clear signage.”

Durham-Aguilera, who oversees 30 cemeteries, including Arlington National Cemetery, spoke about how this reclamation took 10 years. She acknowledged the hard work of all involved and thanked McSwain and the West Point Cemetery team.

In the blessing by COL Keith Goode, USMA command chaplain, Goode compared the new section to the Garden of Eden and the “garden of stone” it would become. He then blessed the new section to ever be a place of “solace, peace and blessing for those who visit to weep and remember. Whether these stones grow here in the spring of youth or the winter of old age, in every season of sorrow, may it recognize those faithful to their duty, laid to rest in honor, having lived above the common level in service to their country.”

After the attendees joined SGM MaryKay Messenger and the West Point Band in singing the Alma Mater, MAJ Heather Borshof, West Point Jewish Community Chaplain, concluded with a blessing in Hebrew and English: “The Lord bless thee and keep thee. The Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee. The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” This blessing echoes the Alma Mater’s words: “May it be said: Well Done. Be Thou at Peace.”

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