April 20, 1916 In Memorial

Altogether, there are 28 major and 142 minor Memorials and monuments at Arlington National Cemetery, to say nothing of the 250,000 plus military grave sites stretching across the landscape. Each of them is dedicated to a person, place or event which has earned the right to be remembered.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Monument as “A statue, building, or other structure erected to commemorate a notable person or event”.

Arlington National Cemetery itself is such a monument:  Memorial Drive extending across the Potomac and connecting Arlington House, the former home of a Confederate general, with the Lincoln Memorial at the opposite end, symbolizing the immutable bond between North and South.

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Approach Arlington at night, and the eternal flame marking the grave of JFK can be seen on the hillside, like some faraway beacon of light.

A list of memorials at Arlington reads like a history of the nation itself. The Argonne Cross commemorates the honored dead of the “War to end all Wars” in 1917-1918, some 2,100 of whom were re-interred in Section 18, after the war. The Battle of the Bulge memorial reads, “To World War II American Soldiers who fought in the Battle of the Bulge – The greatest Land Battle in the history of the United States Army”. The Beirut Barracks Memorial honors 241 American service members killed in the October 23, 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon.

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On Chaplain Hill stands a row of four memorials, bearing the names of Chaplains who laid down their lives in four wars. The Cenotaph, (“an empty tomb or a monument erected in honour of a person or group of people whose remains are elsewhere”), bears this inscription: “Greater Love Hath No Man Than This, That A Man Lay Down His Life For His Friends.” Written there are the names of the only two chaplains ever awarded the Medal of Honor: Major Charles Joseph Watters (January 17, 1927 – November 19, 1967), killed in Vietnam while rendering aid to fallen comrades, and Captain Emil Joseph Kapaun (April 20, 1916 – May 23, 1951), the “Shepherd in Combat Boots” who remains to this day in some unmarked North Korean grave site.

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I have barely scratched the Cs. Altogether, there are 28 major and 142 minor Memorials and monuments at Arlington National Cemetery, to say nothing of the 250,000 plus military grave sites stretching across the landscape. Each of them is dedicated to a person, place or event which has earned the right to be remembered.

arlington-national-cemetery

It has long seemed to this writer that, irrespective of one’s political persuasion, an informed and presumably voting citizen of a Free Republic cannot cast an informed vote, cannot know where he wants his country to go, without an understanding of where it has been.

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If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit Arlington National Cemetery recently, I highly recommend the trip. Leave yourself plenty of time to take it all in. It would be hard to find more heritage, tradition and history, in any other single place.

Feature image, top of page:  Air Force Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.  H/T to AF.MIL, the official website of the United States Air force

If you enjoyed this “Today in History”, please feel free to re-blog, “like” & share on social media, so that others may find and enjoy it as well. Please click the “follow” button on the right, to receive email updates on new articles.  Thank you for your interest, in the history we all share.

April 16, 1866 Pleasant Paths

“Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

On April 16, 1866, the American Civil War was barely a year in the past.  An unknown widow brought her children to the Hiller Cemetery, near Carbondale, Illinois.  She and the children placed flowers on an unmarked grave, as several veterans watched from the steps of the nearby Crab Orchard Christian Church.

The group was struck by her simple gesture.  When the family left, the men gathered up wild flowers and so decorated the graves of their fallen comrades, as she and the kids had done. Word of the gesture soon spread, and it was agreed that a more formal act of Memorial should be carried out. A community wide event took place at Carbondale’s Woodlawn Cemetery on April 29, 1866.

212 veterans took part in that first ceremony, among them Major General John A. Logan, invited to give the keynote address.

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Two years later, General Logan was Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, in Washington DC. In March of that year, General Logan’s wife Mary visited several battlefields of the late war, in Virginia. While there, Mary Logan noticed a number of small flags, wilting flowers and other decorations, marking Confederate graves at the Blandford Cemetery, near Petersburg.

On her return, Mary expressed the opinion that the North should so decorate the graves of its fallen. Perhaps reminded of that earlier occasion near Carbondale, General Logan issued General Order No. 11, setting aside a date in May as an annual date “for the purpose of strewing flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of Comrades who died in the defense of their country.”

Some two dozen communities claim the honor of having held that first Memorial Day, though it wouldn’t be called that until much later. For now, it was “Decoration Day”. The first large-scale observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

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The veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of General Robert E. Lee, was draped in mourning. A number of officials attended the event, including General Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, Julia. There were speeches and hymns, and then children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home joined with members of the GAR, in laying flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate alike.

General Logan’s order instructed all posts to decorate the graves of the fallen “with the choicest flowers of springtime”. “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance“, he wrote, “Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

So may it always be.

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If you enjoyed this “Today in History”, please feel free to re-blog, “like” & share on social media, so that others may find and enjoy it as well. Please click the “follow” button on the right, to receive email updates on new articles.  Thank you for your interest, in the history we all share.

January 23, 1828 A Victim to Maternal Love

In 1929, Washington journalist Margaret Husted wrote about her in the Washington Star. Descendants came forward and, piece by piece, the story of the first person buried at Arlington came to light.

The first military burial at Arlington National Cemetery was that of Private William Henry Christman, 67th Pennsylvania Infantry, interred on May 13, 1864. Two more joined him that day, the trickle soon turning into a flood. By the end of the war between the states, that number was 17,000 and rising.

ARHO282_Mary-Randolph-PortrThe first military burial, but not the first.  When Private Christman went to his rest in our nation’s most hallowed ground, his grave joined that of Mary Randolph, buried some thirty-six years earlier.

In 1929, cemetery workers were doing renovations on the Custis Mansion, at the top of the hill.  They couldn’t help being aware of a solitary grave, 100′ to the north, but knew little of its occupant.

Marked with the name Mary Randolph, the stone was inscribed with these words:

“In the memory of Mrs. Mary Randolph,

Her intrinsic worth needs no eulogium.

The deceased was born

The 9th of August, 1762

at Amphill near Richmond, Virginia

And died the 23rd of January 1828

In Washington City a victim to maternal love and duty.”

Little else was known about Mary Randolph.

In 1929, journalist Margaret Husted wrote about her in the Washington Star newspaper.  Descendants came forward and, piece by piece, the story of the first person buried at Arlington, came to light.

mrandolpMary Randolph, Pocahontas’ direct descendant and cousin to Thomas Jefferson,  was the cousin of George Washington Parke Custis, adopted step-grandson of George Washington, and the godmother of Custis’ daughter, Mary Anna Randolph Custis, wife of Robert E. Lee.

The last line of the inscription, “a victim to maternal love and duty” refers to her youngest surviving son, Midshipman Burwell Starke Randolph, who suffered a fall from a high mast in 1817, while serving in the Navy.  Both of his legs were broken and never healed properly.  When Mary passed away in 1828, Randolph remarked that his mother had sacrificed her own life in care of his.

american-housewife-randolphMary Randolph is best known as the author of America’s first regional cookbook, “The Virginia Housewife”. The Virginia Culinary Thymes writes that “It is interesting to note that all the cookery at that time was done in kitchens that had changed little over the centuries. In Virginia, the kitchen was typically a separate building for reasons of safety, summer heat and the smells from the kitchen. The heart of the kitchen was a large fireplace where meat was roasted and cauldrons of water and broth simmered most of the day. Swinging cranes and various devices made to control temperature and the cooking processes were used. The Dutch oven and the chafing dish were found in most kitchens. The brick oven used for baking was located next to the fireplace. A salamander was used to move baked products around in the oven and it could also be heated and held over food for browning“.

fdsdfsdfsdfs 116Mrs. Randolph was an early advocate of the now-common use of herbs, spices and wines in cooking. Her recipe for apple fritters calls for slices of apple marinated in a combination of brandy, white wine, sugar, cinnamon, and lemon rind.

She was well known as a Virginia cook and hostess, so much so that, during an 1800 slave insurrection near Richmond, the leader “General Gabriel” said that he would spare her life, if she would become his cook.

I believe that General Gabriel might have been onto something.

If you enjoyed this “Today in History”, please feel free to re-blog, “like” & share on social media, so that others may find and enjoy it too. Please click the “follow” button on the right, to receive email updates on new articles.  Thank you for your interest, in the history we all share.

October 23, 1983 Heritage

A list of memorials at Arlington reads like a history of the nation itself. The Argonne Cross commemorates the honored dead of the “War to end all Wars” in 1917-1918, some 2,100 of whom were re-interred in Section 18 after the war. The Battle of the Bulge memorial reads, “To World War II American Soldiers who fought in the Battle of the Bulge – The greatest Land Battle in the history of the United States Army”. The Beirut Memorial honors 241 American service members killed in the October 23, 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon, twenty-one of whom went to their final rest, at Arlington National Cemetery.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Monument as “A statue, building, or other structure erected to commemorate a notable person or event”.

Arlington National Cemetery is itself such a monument; Memorial Avenue extending across the Potomac, connecting Arlington House, the former home of a Confederate general, with the Lincoln Memorial at the opposite end, symbolizing the immutable bond between North and South.

Approach Arlington at night, and the eternal flame marking the grave of JFK can be seen on the hillside, like some faraway beacon of light.

Eternal Flame

A list of memorials at Arlington reads like a history of the nation itself. The Argonne Cross commemorates the honored dead of the “War to end all Wars” in 1917-1918, some 2,100 of whom were re-interred in Section 18 after the war. The Battle of the Bulge memorial reads, “To World War II American Soldiers who fought in the Battle of the Bulge- The greatest Land Battle in the history of the United States Army”.

The Beirut Memorial honors 241 American service members killed in the October 23, 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon, twenty-one of whom went to their final rest, at Arlington National Cemetery.  The inscription reads:

“Let Peace Take Root”

This Cedar of Lebanon tree grows in living memory of the Americans killed in the Beirut terrorist attack and all victims of terrorism throughout the world.
Dedicated during the first memorial ceremony for these victims.

Given by: No Greater Love
October 23, 1984
A time of remembrance

Beirut memorial
“This Cedar of Lebanon tree grows in living memory of the Americans killed in the Beirut terrorist attack and all victims of terrorism throughout the world. Dedicated during the first memorial ceremony for these victims”.

On Chaplain Hill stands a row of four memorials, bearing the names of four Chaplains who laid down their lives in four wars. The Cenotaph, (“an empty tomb or a monument erected in honour of a person or group of people whose remains lie elsewhere”), bears this inscription: “Greater Love Hath No Man Than This, That A Man Lay Down His Life For His Friends.” Written there are the names of the only two chaplains ever awarded the Medal of Honor: Major Charles Joseph Watters, killed in Vietnam, while rendering aid to fallen comrades, and Captain Emil Joseph Kapaun, the “Shepherd in Combat Boots” who remains to this day in some unmarked North Korean grave site.

Emil Kapaun

I have barely scratched the Cs. Altogether, there are 28 major and 142 minor Memorials and monuments at Arlington National Cemetery, to say nothing of the 400,000+ military grave sites, stretching across the landscape. Each of them across the 624 acres of Arlington, equivalent to 472 football fields, is dedicated to a person, place or event which has earned the right to be remembered.

It has long seemed to this writer that, irrespective of political persuasion, an informed citizen of a free Republic can’t cast an informed vote, can’t know where he wants his country to go, without an understanding of where it’s been. If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit Arlington National Cemetery recently, I highly recommend the trip. Leave yourself plenty of time to take it all in. It would be hard to find more heritage, tradition and history, in any other single place.

 

Feature Image Credit, Navin Sarma Photography. “Snow and wind mix in with purple city glow at sunset at the Air Force Memorial”

September 30, 2013 Living Memorial

The final resting place of over 400,000 honored dead is a living memorial, combining tens of thousands of native and exotic plants in a unique blending of landscapes, combined with formal and informal gardens. More than 8,600 native and exotic trees representing 325 varieties and species fill the landscape with color.

Think for a moment of an empty and lifeless stone mausoleum, and then forget it.  That’s not what it’s like, at Arlington.

80 to 100 military service members, veterans and their loved ones go to their final rest in Arlington National Cemetery, every week.  Not one of them goes alone. Since 1948, a volunteer with the “Arlington Ladies” attends each and every one of them, 365 days a year, seven days a week.

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The final resting place of over 400,000 honored dead is a living memorial, combining tens of thousands of native and exotic plants in a unique blending of landscapes, combined with formal and informal gardens. More than 8,600 native and exotic trees representing 325 varieties and species fill the landscape with color.  The first and last impression of the visitor is that of beauty and a sense of peace.

Three of these trees are Virginia state champions and one is state co-champion, including the Royal Paulownia, below.  State champion trees are those having the greatest height, crown spread and trunk circumference, for their species.

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Royal Paulownia at Arlington Cemetery Photo © 2015 by Greg Zell

Take a single species of tree, for instance, the eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis), of which 165 specimens live at Arlington. Each tree stands 10′ to 30′ tall, with pink and purple flowers emerging directly from bark and branches in early April. Five-inch wide, heart shaped leaves emerge later in the spring. At first a glossy purple, by summer they have turned to green and pods have begun to grow.  Like pea pods, they grow green to reddish during the early months, later turning to black before falling off. In late winter, there is no more striking contrast with a fresh fall of snow.

The cemetery also has 24 Chinese Redbuds, a strain native to central China. These are only two of Arlington’s hundreds of varieties of flowering trees.

About 200 trees are removed every year, and 240 planted.  Every tree in the place will be pruned at least once, every four years.

Arlington in snow

Bring your walking shoes, and you’ll have to leave your pooch, behind.  In 2013, cemetery authorities permitted bicycles on a specified route between 8:00 a.m. and 6:45 p.m., from April 1 to September 30.  Today, be prepared to walk. Effective October 26, 2016, policy prohibits bicycles on Cemetery grounds, without a family pass.  “As there are no bike paths on the cemetery grounds, mixing cyclists with pedestrians and vehicles creates a safety hazard”.images (2)

The Cemetery’s horticulture division recently installed 297 tree labels, identifying many of the cemetery’s noteworthy specimens. 36 of them form a right angle along Farragut & Wilson Drive, lending a sense of history as each is a direct descendant of a famous ancestor, each a living memorial to recipients of the Medal of Honor.

Ancestors of these “tree descendants” include the Cottonwood of Delta Colorado, which shaded the peace meetings between settlers and Ute tribes in 1879. The Sweetgum of the Westmoreland, Virginia home of four generations of the Lee family, including Richard Henry and Francis “Lightfoot” Lee.  The only brothers to have signed the Declaration of Independence. The great Charter Oak of Connecticut is represented there, a specimen sprouted sometime in the 12th or 13th century. There is the American Sycamore descended from a “witness tree” at Gettysburg. There is the Red Maple from Walden Woods, outside of Boston, and the Sycamore Maple, witness to George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware.

Picture2Other tree ancestors include the Water Oak next to the Brown Chapel African Methodist Church in Selma, where Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “We Shall Overcome” speech, before setting out on the 50-mile march to Montgomery.  The George Washington American Holly was grown from seeds gathered at Mount Vernon. Helen Keller climbed the 100-year-old Water Oak, as a child.  The Overcup Oak descends from a tree which shaded the birthplace of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.

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“The 17th Airborne Division donated the Japanese Zelkova tree shown at the right. It is located in Section 33”. – http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/Explore/Memorial-Arboretum-and-Horticulture/Trees/Memorial-Trees

For years, the 624-acre grounds at Arlington have been a living memorial.  Some of the most beautiful gardens you are ever going to see, the work is performed by a full-time staff of only three Master Gardeners, and an army of contractors. In 2013, the cemetery received official accreditation as a level II arboretum by the Morton Register of Arboreta. A living memorial taking its place on the nation’s most comprehensive list of arboreta and public gardens, designated the Arlington National Cemetery Memorial Arboretum.

 

This “Today in History” is dedicated to my paternal grandfather, Norman Francis Long, United States Army, who left us the night his namesake, my brother, came into the world.  December 18, 1963.  It was too soon.  Arlington National Cemetery – Section 41, plot #2161Norman Francis Long

February 15, 2005 Arlington Lady

Their job is to honor, not to grieve, but it doesn’t always work out that way

The first military burial at Arlington National Cemetery was that of Private William Henry Christman, 67th Pennsylvania Infantry, interred on May 13, 1864. Two more joined him that day, the trickle soon turning into a flood. By the end of the war between the states, that number was 17,000 and rising.

In modern times, an average week will see 80 to 100 burials in the 612 acres of Arlington.

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Twelve years ago, a news release from the Department of Defense reported that “Private First Class Michael A. Arciola, 20, of Elmsford, New York, died February 15, 2005, in Al Ramadi, Iraq, from injuries sustained from enemy small arms fire.  Arciola was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 503d Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, Camp Casey, Korea”.

Private Arciola joined a quarter-million buried in our nation’s most hallowed ground on March 31. Two hundred or more mourners attended his funeral.  A tribute befitting the tragedy of the loss of one so young.

Sixteen others were buried there that same Friday, most of them considerably older.  Some of them brought only a dozen or so mourners.  For others, no friends or family members were on-hand to say goodbye.

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Former Tuskegee Airman Benjamin O. Davis Jr. is laid to rest, Saturday, July 6, 2002

In 1948, Air Force Chief of Staff General Hoyt Vandenberg and his wife, Gladys, regularly attended funeral services at Arlington National cemetery.  Sometimes, a military chaplain was the only one present at these services.  Both felt that a member of the Air Force family should be present at these funerals, and Gladys began to invite other officer’s wives.  Over time, a group of women from the Officer’s Wives Club were formed for the purpose.  In 1973, General Creighton Abram’s wife Julia did the same for the Army, forming a group calling itself the “Arlington Ladies”.  Groups of Navy and Coast guard wives followed suit, in 1985 and 2006.  Traditionally, the Marine Corps Commandant sends an official representative of the Corps to all Marine funerals.  The Marine Corps Arlington Ladies were formed in 2016.

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Margaret Mensch, April 22, 2010

Arlington Ladies’ Chairman Margaret Mensch said  “We’ve been accused of being professional mourners, but that isn’t true.  I fight that perception all the time. What we’re doing is paying homage to Soldiers who have given their lives for our country.”

Air Force Ladies’ Chairman Sue Ellen Lansell spoke of a service where the only other guest was “one elderly gentlemen who stood at the curb and would not come to the grave site.  He was from the Soldier’s Home in Washington, D. C. One soldier walked up to invite him closer, but he said no, he was not family”.

Traditionally, the organization was made up of current or former military wives.  Today their number includes daughters, and even one “Arlington Gentleman”.  Their motto, “No Soldier will ever be buried alone.”arlington-lady

44 years ago they came alone, or in pairs.  Today, the 145 or so volunteers from the four branches are a recognized part of funeral ceremonies, operating out of a joint office in the cemetery’s administration building.

The volunteer arrives with a military escort from the Navy or the United States Army 3rd Infantry Regiment, the “Old Guard”.  The horse-drawn caisson arrives from the old post chapel, carrying the flag draped casket.  Joining the procession, she will quietly walk to the burial site, her arm inside that of her escort.  A few words are spoken over the deceased, followed by the three-volley salute.  Somewhere, a solitary bugler sounds Taps.  The folded flag is presented to the grieving widow, or next of kin.  Only then will she break her silence, stepping forward with a word of condolence and two cards:  one from the service branch Chief of Staff and his wife, and a second from herself.

Joyce Johnson buried her husband Lt. Col. Dennis Johnson in 2001, a victim of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon.  She remembers the Arlington Ladies volunteer as “a touchingly, human presence in a sea of starched uniforms and salutes”.  Three years later, Joyce Johnson paid it forward, becoming one herself.

arlington-in-snowA funeral may be for a young military service member killed in the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, or a veteran of Korea or WWII, who spent his last days in the old soldier’s home.  It could be a four-star General or a Private.  It doesn’t matter.

Individual volunteers attend about five funerals a day, sometimes as many as eight.  As with the Tomb of the Unknown sentinels who keep their guard heedless of weather, funeral services disregard weather conditions.  The funeral will proceed on the date and time scheduled regardless of rain, snow or heat.  An Arlington Lady Will be in attendance.

Their job is to honor, not to grieve, but it doesn’t always work out that way.  Linda Willey of the Air Force ladies describes the difficulty of burying Pentagon friends after 9/11, while pieces of debris still littered the cemetery.  Paula McKinley of the Navy Ladies still chokes up, over the hug of a ten-year old who had just lost both of her parents.  Margaret Mensch speaks of the heartbreak of burying one of her own young escorts, after he was killed in Afghanistan, in 2009.

Offering condolences
Army Arlington Lady Anne Lennox with letters of condolence for the widow of Brigadier General Henry G. Watson.

Barbara Benson was herself a soldier, an Army flight nurse during WWII.  She is the longest serving Arlington Lady.  “I always try to add something personal”, Benson said, “especially for a much older woman.  I always ask how long they were married.  They like to tell you they were married 50 or 60 years…I don’t know how to say it really, I guess because I identify with Soldiers. That was my life for 31 years, so it just seems like the natural thing to do.”

Elinore Riedel was chairman of the Air Force Ladies during the War in Vietnam, when none of the other military branches had women representatives. “Most of the funerals were for young men,” she said. “I saw little boys running little airplanes over their father’s coffins. It is a gripping thing, and it makes you realize the awful sacrifices people made. Not only those who died, but those left behind.”

Mrs. Reidel is a minister’s daughter, who grew up watching her father serve those in need.  “It doesn’t matter whether you know a person or not”, she said, “whether you will ever see them again.  It calls upon the best in all of us to respond to someone in deep despair. I call it grace…I honestly feel we all need more grace in our lives.”

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