The Arlington Ladies


Corporal - USMC
MI.Net Member
Feb 22, 2006
January 7, 2007


Washington - On a winter day when the rows and rows of white headstones were shrouded in a band of low-lying mist at Arlington National Cemetery, Jane Newman took her place in the white-gloved military honor guard. As the ashes of the latest fallen soldier arrived, she placed her hand over her heart in the civilian salute.
She didn't know this soldier or the family that shuffled behind his urn, shoulders stooped in grief. As usual, she knew only his name, Keith Fiscus. His age, 26. His years of service in the Army, four, and the names of his next of kin. Yet when she went through the paperwork that morning, she felt a pang. He was one more soldier killed in Iraq.
When she was invited five years ago to become an Army Arlington Lady, Newman, the wife of a 30-year Army artillery officer and herself a retired Army nurse, was drawn to the group's mission: that no soldier is ever buried alone. Every fourth Tuesday of the month, she spends the day at Arlington, standing graveside, hand over heart, at up to six funerals a day.
When she started, most of the soldiers she was burying were World War II veterans or soldiers who had lived long lives. Handing a condolence card on behalf of the Army chief of staff and saying a few kind words from the "Army family" to a grieving widow was never easy.
But these days, as deaths from the Iraq war has topped 3,000 and many of the buried are young soldiers, Newman and other Arlington Ladies are finding it difficult to do their solemn duty. Some have asked to be excused.
An Arlington Lady does not cry. An Arlington Lady is not a professional mourner. She is not a grief counselor, according to their strict Standard Operating Procedure. She is there simply so that somebody is.
Since 1973, when the Army chief of staff's wife saw a veteran's funeral with no one attending, an Army Arlington Lady, in muted civilian dress and often muddy pumps, has stood graveside at every funeral at Arlington as the personal representative of the chief of staff. Occasionally, she is the only one there.
She is part of a society open only to military wifes or widows and then only to those invited to join. The Navy ladies formed in 1985. The much smaller Air Force had Arlington Ladies as far back as 1948. Now, the Navy, Air Force and Army have about 50 Arlington Ladies each. The Marines do not want to participate. The Marines take care of their own, the groups have been told.
The Arlington Ladies' role in the ceremony is brief: When the flag has been presented to the grieving family, they approach, offer a few words of comfort and a handwritten note and back away, never turning their backs on the flag.
"We add a little more personal touch to the military funeral," explained Margaret Mensch, chair of the Army Arlington Ladies, "yet not too personal."
Getting too personal got one Arlington Lady in trouble last year. After a particularly emotional funeral in section 60, where the dead from Iraq and Afghanistan are buried, she kissed the foreheads of the widow and mother. "She was reprimanded for that," Mensch said.
But that was the gesture Cindy Upchurch - the mother of Spc. Clinton Upchurch, killed by a makeshift bomb in Iraq - needed that day. "It was a blessing." she said recently. "At that point in a mother's life, when you've lost a child in a violent death, in a war, you need some human touch."
Lt. Col. William Barefield, Arlington's senior Army chaplain, says he sees Arlington Ladies as healers.
"I watch the families. After we present the flag, you sense a little bit of sadness, like 'Oh, it's over,' he said. And that's when the Arlington Ladies walk into what he calls the "eye of the storm - the unbelievable sorrow for a death in war. They represent someone at the highest level of government. It's an acknowledgment that this life was one of a kind. "

Article by Brigid Schulte, Washington Post
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Does the theory of "no soldier is buried alone" apply to say a soldier who has left the army and has lived a civilian life for a few years then dies?.

If so, how is this administrated ?
I have very limited knowledge on the Arlington Ladies. But I do know that there are over 5,500 burials per year at Arlington National Cemetery, so I doubt the Arlington Ladies attend them all. Probably they are allowed to pick and choose which funerals they attend. Those funerals with details that seem to indicate no family or friends will be present, I assume, are their first priority. If you qualify for burial at Arlington, and there are many honorably discharged and retired from military service people that do, in all likelihood, you have been seperated from military service for a long time. Once someone has passed away, the family members or the funeral home, as directed, must contact Arlington National Cemetery with the request for burial there and the necessary proof of military service and qualification for burial there. I hope to end up there myself, many years from now.

*p.s. - I will be very grateful if you will correct my misspelling of Arlington in the title of my post. Semper Fi
We definately need something like this in the UK, I dont think we have anything similar ?.
Thanks for the information mate (Y)
You are right Bombardier, there isn’t anything like that here, though I am pleased to say that we medics keep in touch and when someone moves to the great parade ground in the sky we always have at least one in attendance and we also drape the coffin with our corps flag.

Heartwarming moment hundreds of mourners turned out to funeral of RAF gunner who died aged 90 with no relatives

  • RAF gunner Sidney Marshall died at his Lancashire home aged 90 on June 16
  • His wife died last year and the pair had no children or nearby relatives
  • Undertaker Eddie Jacobs made emotional appeal to help send-off war hero
  • Hundreds turned out to pay respects at funeral at Lytham Park Crematorium

Read more:
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It would appear that we are now doing the right thing for our heroes with no family to mourn their passing.
great news
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