The Arlington Ladies are comprised of wives and widows of military veterans, and their purpose is simple: to ensure that no one is buried in Arlington with no one in attendance at the funeral, or to provide comfort to the families of those being buried.
A Tradition Is Born
In 1948, Air Force Chief of Staff General Hoyt S. Vandenberg was living at Fort Myer, Virginia, in a home with a commanding view of the cemetery. He and his wife Gladys often walked there, and noticed airmen being buried with only the chaplain and an honor guard in attendance.
Mrs. Vandenberg enlisted members of the Officers' Wives Club to attend these funerals-without-mourners, and a tradition was born. The "Ladies of Arlington" now are represented by the Army, Navy and the Air Force. The Marine Corps does not have a group, but a representative of the commandant attends every funeral.
There are 23 interments daily, and the ladies are on hand to ensure that none is conducted in a bleak and friendless atmosphere. Even when friends and family are present, the ladies and their escorts, the young active duty men whose job it is to stand at their sides, volunteer their services.
"I always introduce myself to the family as the representative of the chief of staff of the Air Force," said McGuth. "I say that he regrets that he could not be in attendance personally."
Today is the day we, as a nation, pay tribute and honor those who have served our nation's armed forces through remembrance of those veterans and service members who have passed away. For one day, one day of the year, we set aside as reserved for homage to those who have sacrificed that our nation remains free.
A small price for saying "thank you" to the memories of those who served, and those who are no longer with us. And past the department and specialty store sales, the home improvement project specials, the barbeque's, picnics, and the day at the beach, we do remember. Perhaps, by these very acts, we're remembering in a way that would never have been envisioned when Memorial Day was established as a national day of remembrance.
We, Americans, have a great love of life and freedom. We work hard, for the most part, and when we relax, when we play, we like to play every bit as hard and competitively as we work. This is our legacy, and our tradition.
A tradition protected and ensured by our armed forces.
Perhaps, then, it is appropriate, despite what some who would say otherwise, that we do honor our fallen by taking full advantage of a day that we can celebrate life, and the freedom that was earned for us, as citizens, by those who have sacrificed in order for us to continue.
And as we do, let us keep firmly in our minds, and in our hearts, not just today, but every day, a gratitude and a silent thanks to those who gave all. And as we do, let us also give a special thought of gratitude for the Arlington Ladies, who pay remembrance every day at our national cemetery, selflessly giving in their own way to those who pass their way.
A very heartfelt salute to those who have passed on before us...
Once and Always, an American Fighting Man