By: Lexy | 05-28-2018 | News
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Arlington Ladies - Honoring Those Who Served - Year Round

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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<span style="margin-top:15px;rgba(42,51,6,0.7);font-size:12px;">Credit: <a href=""> AARP /a></span>

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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