Sunday, May 30, 2010

Never Alone

On this Memorial Day, we pause to pay tribute to the brave men and women who have given their lives in the service of our country. At cemeteries all around the nation, small American flags will be placed on the graves of U.S. Veterans, in a fitting tribute to those who have served. Nowhere is that honor more obvious than Arlington National Cemetery, just across the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial in our nation's capitol. The 624 acre site has more than 300,000 burial plots.

Numerous service men and women are buried at Arlington each day. Some funerals are large affairs with entire families present. Others are much smaller. But one thing is for sure. No service man or woman will ever be buried in Arlington with no one attending their service. A volunteer group known as the Arlington Ladies will see to that. A member of this group attends every funeral service for every military veteran interred at Arlington.

The group had its beginnings in 1948 when Gladys Vandenberg, wife of the Air Force Chief of Staff, Hoyt Vandenberg witnessed an Airman being buried with no one in attendance other than the officiating Chaplain and honor guard. Deeply moved by the fact that no one else was there to honor the sacrifice of the Airman, Mrs. Vandenberg enlisted the help of other members of the officers wives club to form a group that would see to it that no Air Force veteran would be buried at Arlington with no one to mourn their loss. In 1972 Julie Abrams, the wife of Army General Creighton Abrams, formed a similar group to honor Army veterans. Soon the Navy had a group of their own. The Marine Corps does not have a contingent of Arlington Ladies, but they do have a representative of the Marine Commandant in attendance at every Marine veteran's service.

The Arlington Ladies may not be a huge, front page story, but what a tribute it is to their compassion, patriotism, and gratitude, that they faithfully see to it that every single service member's funeral has someone there to honor the fallen heroes. Thanks to their dedication to the cause, the Arlington Ladies see to it that none is ever buried alone.

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