Arlington memorial guard documentary

My brother worked at Arlington Cemetery for a few years as a contract officer. He had the occasion to view the Tomb Guard and the ceremony a few times; he always said it was impressive. Strange to say, although I have been to Fort Myers and have had business in the Pentagon, I've never had the chance to look in at Arlington Cemetery. I've seen the USMC Iwo Jima memorial though, thanks to my late brother in law who was a Marine who served in 1956-60. He said it was something he absolutely had to see when we were in DC for my brother's wedding. It has a visceral impact when you see it close up in person.

Arlington cemetery is running out of room for American veterans
David Charter, Washington
November 9 2019, 12:01am,
The Times

When the last of the “Doolittle Raiders” died at the age of 103, there was never any question that he would be laid to rest in the most hallowed ground of the US armed forces. Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, just across the Potomac from the capital, is the final resting place for presidents, supreme court justices and remains from all military ranks who have served in conflicts dating back to 1864.

While Lieutenant-Colonel Dick Cole, who died earlier this year, will be reunited with his comrade General Jimmy Doolittle, leader of the bombing raid that struck Tokyo in retaliation for Pearl Harbor, those serving today will find it harder to have a funeral in the nation’s most requested military cemetery.

The length of time Mr Cole’s family have to wait for his burial — which is not expected to take place until April next year — hints at the problem. Arlington hosts 25 to 30 funeral services a day and is filling up fast. As it prepares for Veterans Day commemorations on Monday, Arlington is mired in controversy over plans to restrict who can be buried there.

“The nation’s premiere military cemetery is at a critical crossroads,” Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director of Army National Military Cemeteries and Arlington National Cemetery, said. “Nearly all of the 22 million living armed forces members and veterans are eligible for fewer than 95,000 remaining burial spaces. To keep Arlington open and active means we have to make some tough decisions.”

The irony is not lost on military historians. Arlington was created during the Civil War to solve overcrowding. Burial grounds in the capital were running out of room and the coffins of Union soldiers were being stacked up outside the White House until the decision was made to seize the Arlington estate from the family of General Robert E Lee, who quit the US Army to fight as a Confederate.

An initial 200 acres were set aside as a military cemetery which has now tripled in size with a further 37-acre expansion planned to the south. General Lee is not buried there — soldiers from the South were grudgingly accepted in plots marked with the headstone “rebel”.

It is the resting place of President Kennedy, his wife and brothers, but the role of Arlington as a national memorial was cemented with monuments to the lost crews of the Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbus and to the passengers and crew of the Pan Am airliner blown up over Lockerbie.

Any veteran can request a resting place for their ashes but burial plots were limited in 1967 during the Vietnam War to those who died on active duty, were prisoners of war, earned a Purple Heart (wounded in combat) or Silver Star or above, or were receiving a service pension after an active duty military career.

The new proposals, under consultation, end burial rights for active service pensioners apart from “veterans with combat service who also served out of uniform as a government official and made significant contributions to the nation’s security”. Reservists and National Guards will lose the right to have their ashes buried there.

The Air Force Association is among several groups calling for a more generous offer, however. “If the proposed rules were in place today, World War Two hero Lieutenant-Colonel Dick Cole would not be allowed to be buried in Arlington,” Keith Zuegel, the association’s director of government relations, said. Cole was Doolittle’s co-pilot but his three Distinguished Flying Crosses rank a couple of places below the qualifying level of Silver Star. Mr Zuegel said: “He wouldn’t meet the new criteria.”

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