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May 25, 2009

Section 60

Section 60.jpg

Quite an image on the newswire today (although captured a year ago, Memorial Day). It’s set in Section 60 where most of the Iraq and Afghanistan war vets are buried.

I don’t mean to emphasize the power differential, but it’s as if we were looking at two different pictures, if not many more. On the left is Joint Chiefs Chairman Mullen standing with a group of Marines in military dress while an airman, I believe, sits with family or friends (or friend’s family) around a grave marker, as if at a picnic or the beach with a comrade and son/brother/father (or daughter/sister/mother) who died.

To me, it’s a very evocative and humbling photo, offering much: All equal in death. The  military culture as achingly distinct from civilian life. The speechlessness and even mundane quality of surviving a loved one. And then, noting the people in the background at other gravestones, there is a profound sense of anonymity here, as well.

(image: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images. Arlington National Cemetery May 26, 2008. Arlington, Virginia.)

  • paulo

    Cemeteries were/are memorial parks and once upon a time people came to picnic and do exactly what the leisure folks are doing.
    At some point and I don’t know when, cemeteries became these repositories for the dead that only see activity when adding a new member and in scenes of rote ceremony.
    At one time perhaps both of those activities occurred at the same time. Is what we see here a vision of the past played in the present?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p00e5523476cc8834 DennisQ

    Roadside bombs have made senior people less safe than in previous wars. I don’t have figures for this, but I’ve noticed that the dead now include people who’ve traditionally been way behind the lines. For example, I never heard of a sergeant major even being wounded. Now they’re getting blown up like everyone else.
    It’s still likely that the higher up you go the more likely you’ll get a medal for heroism. And officers get higher medals than enlisted personnel. If you’re a captain and you dash out among enemy bullets, you’ll get a Silver Star. If you’re a private you’ll get a Bronze Star. Roadside bombs, however, are the great leveller. If you get caught by one of those, it doesn’t make any difference what kind of medal you get.

  • Jerry Holtaway

    This image riles me in the same way as when I read, “Happy Memorial Day!” (I live in France so I don’t “hear” it said :-) ). Is it not possible to take a day in a somber way? Maybe the day should be renamed “Lest we forget”. People might not be so prone to then say, “Happy Lest We Forget Day?”

  • Progresssive Mom

    What struck me first was the “blanket” of stars and stripes: she is honoring a military loved one, but if you remove the cemetery from around her, she would be the picture of what many conservatives scorn and decry – young, barefooted and sunbathing on the stars and stripes.
    It reminds me that we each mourn those we lost in our own way, and no one way is the only “correct” way.

  • Del “Abe” Jones

    Section Sixty
    The Saddest Acre In America
    Men and Women buried here
    Who gave their all for you and me
    In Iraq and Afghanistan
    So that, others, might be Free.
    Row after row of headstones
    Where friends and families grieve
    They pay respects and say a prayer
    There’s some, don’t want to leave.
    Some will place a memento
    For their Hero, neath the ground
    And far too often, during the day
    Hearing “Taps”, a mournful sound.
    The white stones bear their Name
    Rank and Branch and conflict Served
    The dates of Birth and Death
    And the Citations, they deserved.
    Maybe, a symbol for their Faith
    Something, etched above their name
    But no matter what, their beliefs
    They’re all treated just the same.
    Once, Comrades in Battle
    And now, resting neath that stone
    Forever with, those other Heroes
    So, they will never be alone.
    Section Sixty, just a small part
    Of this sacred, hallowed ground
    But, each plot a special place
    Where, a Hero may be found.
    They all are in good company
    Two hundred sixty thousand souls
    Buried here at Arlington
    Some young, with unfulfilled life goals.
    All Served our Country selflessly
    And they all deserve our praise
    We should, remember them and thank them
    Not just, only on, these holidays.
    Del “Abe” Jones
    05.23.2009
    GOLD STAR MOTHERS
    Started with a group of twenty-five
    In the year of twenty-eight
    By those who’d lost a Son or Daughter
    From the wartime’s cruel fate.
    When the Blue Star on the Service Flag
    Was replaced with one of Gold
    Everybody knew a Mother grieved
    With a loss from that household.
    “Out of tragedy, we were formed”
    And, “Out of love we continue.”
    This legacy of Gold Star Mothers
    With the heartache, that they knew.
    They use the memories and love
    Of those who gave their all
    To help those other Veterans
    Who answered our Nation’s call.
    It’s so sad, they still exist
    And most likely always will
    As long as, we go to war
    There’s a need they must fulfill.
    Del “Abe” Jones
    10-04-2003
    Their observance day is the last Sunday in September.
    GOLD STAR FAMILIES
    There’s too many Gold Star Families
    Their numbers growing every day
    Too much to ask those loved ones
    Such a terrible price they pay.
    All will say they are very proud
    That their loved one knew the cost
    That in the horrors of Wartime
    Precious lives are sometimes lost.
    But the death of a brave Hero
    In the Service of this Land
    Dying for some other country
    Is oft times, hard to understand.
    “In the name of Freedom!”
    “For the good of fellow man!”
    “To put an end to oppression!”
    Or, sometimes some other plan!
    There have always been those Souls
    Who will rally to the battle’s call
    Who will bear those deadly arms
    Who will march and sometimes fall.
    Some will just bear the wounds
    Though, not always clear to see
    Some will never return the same
    As the people, they used to be.
    But the ones who have that void
    Of that hole in heart and mind
    They are the greatest Heroes
    That we can ever hope to find.
    Maybe one day in our future
    Peace will be the way we’ll live
    But until then we’ll have those
    Who give all they have to give.
    Gold Star Families stand in front
    And shed their tears of loss and pain
    And as long as Man goes to War
    We’ll see them time and time, again.
    Del “Abe” Jones
    8-22-2006

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p00e5523476cc8834 DennisQ

    I used to go to the local Memorial Day observance up until the buildup to the war in Iraq. Then what had been a day of remembrance of the dead morphed into Military Appreciation Day. So I stopped going.
    The dead of Section 60 did not die for anyone’s freedom. It’s an open question what they actually did die for. The fact that they died ought to be remembered in itself, without the controversial claim that they died for freedom. Frankly, I think making political claims for the dead is disrespectful.

  • Joe Blow

    “They’re all treated just the same.”
    yes since this went through
    “America’s first VA-issued headstone containing both a Wiccan Pentacle and a Christian Cross is to be dedicated in a national interfaith memorial service for Jan O’Rourke on July 4, 2007. “

  • http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/22/AR2009052202999.html yg

    another symbolic gesture in the name of unity:
    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will send a wreath to the Confederate Memorial at Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day, rebuffing a petition from academics urging him to cease the decades-old tradition.
    http://www.deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,705306170,00.html
    via:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/22/AR2009052202999.html

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