Posts Tagged ‘military funeral’

As I blogged about a couple month’s ago, my grandmother died on March 19. Arlington National Cemetery has such a backlog of funerals, her service was not held until today. I had been dreading this day for some time because I really do not handle death well and do not like to ever be emotional. (I have no idea how a family is able to deal with losing a son in Iraq, for instance, only to then have to wait up to two months for the service. I know that many have a local service in their hometown, but then having to repeat it again at Arlington, should they want their loved one buried there, must be extremely taxing for them.)

We were worried about rain but it thankfully held off. My wife accompanied me which was nice of her.

My grandmother was a second lieutenant in the army. Therefore, she was buried with full military honors. The service was very small, only the immediate family, and started in the chapel at Fort Myer right at 9am. The chaplain seemed nice and had nice things to say, speaking about serving God and her country. I held it together well during the service.

After the service, which was probably less than twenty minutes, we stepped outside. The band began playing as the casket was loaded onto the caisson. There were probably six or eight horses, nearly thirty band members, a color guard and what seemed to be a dozen honor guard members carrying rifles. They all began to march towards the grave site, which was very far from the chapel, playing music the entire time. We were instructed to follow in our cars.

The very slow journey in our cars took what had to have been over twenty minutes. Arlington National Cemetery is just huge. Even though I have lived in the area for almost ten years, I am not sure I ever really understood just how huge until today. As a tourist you are really not able to comprehend the size of the cemetery and I have never gone to visit the graves of my two grandfathers and step grandfather.

The grave site was about 100 yards from the road and walking through the flooded grass, from our recent monsoon, proved challenging at some points. The honor guard unloaded the casket and placed it on a stand of some sort in front of my grandfather’s stone. He died in 1981, when I was four. I did not get to know him, nor do I remember him. I really feel that he was stolen from us too early at the age of 60.

The chaplain said a prayer and there were three shots in unison from the rifles. Taps was then played. It was during the shots and taps that I felt was eyes welling up with tears but it did not get out of hand. The honor guard folded up the flag with the same military precision you’ve seen on television and the movies and presented it to my uncle, “on behalf of a grateful nation.” An Arlington Lady, a volunteer representative of the Army, gave my uncle a note and had made some comments to him that I could not hear.

That was it. It was over.

My father told me and my brother that my other grandfather was buried about twenty graves down – in the same row. So, the three of us, along with my uncle and half brother walked down. That grandfather, my mom’s father, died six months after my father’s dad. He apparently was fine and at the funeral of my father’s dad, only to get acute leukemia and be buried in nearly the same spot six months later. I have always thought that he was stolen from us too early as well – he was only 58. I didn’t like seeing his grave. It bothered me and I am still not sure why. His wife is my only surviving grandparent.

Throughout the morning, I kept thinking to myself “I hate this place.” Arlington Cemetery has no good memories for me. Fort Myer Chapel is even worse. I attended the funeral of my step grandfather in that same chapel nearly nine years ago. His death was more sudden and the mental images of my grandmother putting his urn in the columbarium, and my aunt’s reaction to that, will be forever etched in my memory. Today was the first graveside service at Arlington and the service of a military officer that I had witnessed. It was all very nice and dignified and memorable. I’m not sure my grandmother would not have liked all of the attention but I am sure she is happy to finally be back beside her husband after over twenty-five years.

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