By Lexy   |  05-28-2018   News
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The Arlington Ladies are a group of volunteers who attend funeral services at Arlington National Cemetery to ensure that no Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Coast Guardsman is buried alone.

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The Arlington Ladies began in 1948 with the Air Force. The chief of staff Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg and his wife, Gladys, noticed that on occasion only the military chaplain was present at Arlington funerals. Someone from the Air Force family should always be there, they agreed, so she recruited friends at the Officers' Wives Club.

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In 1973, Julia Abrams, wife of Army Gen. Creighton Abrams, formed an Army wives' group. A Navy group started in 1985, and the Coast Guard followed in 2006. A representative of the Marine commandant's office attends every Marine funeral.

Today, the Air Force, Army, Navy and Coast Guard all have Arlington Ladies who volunteer their time by attending funeral services for active duty service members and veterans.

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An Arlington Lady being escorted to a grave on May 6, 2008

The criteria to become an Arlington Lady varies with each military service, but each has some connection to their respective service, generally as a current or former military member or a spouse of a military member.

The ladies are an official part of the funeral service, representing the military service's chief of staff or equivalent. The ladies present cards of condolence to the next of kin from the military service chief and spouse on behalf of the service family, and from the Arlington Lady herself.

They attend funerals in the heat, in the snow, and in the rain. They are present for the burial of the youngest Soldier who was killed during his first tour in Iraq and for the World War II-era Soldier who spent his last years in the Old Soldiers Home in Washington, D.C.

They stand a silent vigil at funerals attended by dozens of mourners and at funerals where a Soldier has no next of kin - no friends present to render a final salute.

Besides honoring the Soldiers who are buried at Arlington, the ladies also extend to grieving family members the sympathy of the Army chief of staff and the entire Army family, said Margaret Mensch, Arlington Ladies chairwoman.

"We've been accused of being professional mourners, but that isn't true," she said. "I fight that perception all the time. What we're doing is paying homage to Soldiers who have given their lives for our country."

An Arlington Lady quietly speaks to the family and gives an envelope to the next of kin.

"A military funeral is very precise," says Margaret Mensch, chairman of the Army Arlington Ladies. "We give the personal touch."

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Sandra Griffin, a U.S. Air Force veteran, volunteers as an Arlington Lady for Air Force funeral ceremonies.

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Arlington Lady Paula McKinley regularly attends Navy funerals at Arlington National Cemetery.

Sandra Griffin, 52, who retired as a major after 23 years on active duty, writes sympathy notes to Air Force families she's never met and attends funerals, once a month. "It's a way to still serve," she says. "It's a comfort to the families. Some reach out to hold your hand and say 'Thank you. "

Joyce Johnson became an Army Arlington Lady four years after her husband, Dennis, 48, was killed on 9/11 in the attack on the Pentagon and was buried at Arlington. "We do it from our hearts," she says. "My heart breaks at every funeral."

There is an unwritten rule that applies to all Arlington Ladies: They don't cry. Not ever. "Once in a while you come close to tears — when it's a young active-duty soldier, a young widow, and young kids," Mensch says. "But you don't cry."

“The soldier is the Army. No army is better than its soldiers. The Soldier is also a citizen. In fact, the highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one’s country.” —George S. Patton Jr

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<b>By: Lexy </b>

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Thoughts on the above story? Comment below!
11 Comment/s

Chicago Sparky No. 27345 1527511918

In honour of all those who serve !

Bill H No. 27357 1527515626

What an amzing group of women!

RealBamaCowboy No. 27359 1527515922

What a great article! I had no idea

rcaps66 No. 27360 1527516144

So sad that these great warriors are often without family and loved ones there to say good-bye. These ladies are doing an amazing job to honor the warriors. Thanks for the article Lexy.

DA No. 27363 1527516526

Who knew? Nice article recognizing those who wouldn't normally be.


Michael M. No. 27368 1527519847

Thank you Lexy. I never knew these selfless heroes existed. They represent the best our Country has to offer.

Jacque Koivuniemi No. 27369 1527520322

God bless you all! Selfless act of love and support! You all have my prayers and resoect!

J. Harjo No. 27372 1527524235

What strong courageous women we have. God bless them for what they do. Thank you for this article. I really had never heard this.

Bob No. 27391 1527531862

Thank you, Lexy, for bringing these sweet ladies to our attention on Memorial Day.

Mona No. 27408 1527542638

Thank you ladies from those of us unable to participate in a most worthwhile activity, and Thak-you for the article reminding us of all the behind-the-scenes people working to benefit our fallen

PJ Hoover No. 27935 1528162754

I was honored to have one of the ladies attend my sons funeral at Arlington.

Thank you all for your loving support.

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