The Serenity of Arlington

The family and I have settled into our new location in Alexandria VA. The area is night and day different from the area Andrews sits in. The schools are something to brag on. (Though I have to say, my oldest had great teachers last year, even if the school system Andrews sits in is challenged.) What is most noticeable is the attitude of folks here when you go shopping or out to a restaurant. They are friendly. People's attitudes are entirely different on this side of the Potomac. There is courtesy and respect. At Andrews, we tended to just stay on base to avoid the rudeness encountered when we tried to go shopping or out to eat. We do miss our friends from on base and our kids miss their friends, but we try to take them over periodically to visit.

I've been at Arlington for close to a month now. It is a most serene and profound place to serve our nation. It is a place where, as a chaplain, I have the opportunity to live out the vision of the Air Force Chaplain service to Glorify God, Honor Airmen, and Serve All. Already I have conducted funeral services for many families both of faithful wives and of dedicated warriors.

At Arlington, the flag honors those whose honored the flag with their service.

So what is it like. The cemetery itself is a very moving and serene place.

These pictures attest to the serenity and dignity that is Arlington National Cemetery. I admit I am very moved as I drive to work past the Air Force Memorial, because the shadow the memorial falls over the cemetery. There are few places within the cemetery proper that one cannot view the Memorial rising skyward.

People are most familiar with the rows of simple white stones arrayed in precision marking the resting places of those who have finished their course in this life. But the cemetery has much personality. There are many older areas where the stones are quite unique. Each has its special story to tell.

The service itself is an event to experience and treasure.

For a Full Honors service, I will meet at the transfer site with the Air Force Honor Guard and the Non-commissioned Officer in Charge or the Officer in Charge. As the family approached, the entire detail including honor guard and band snap to attention. As the hearse draws past, we slowly salute the flag that accompanies the remains, dropping the salute and moving to the position of rest as the hearse passes. When all is ready, all are called to attention and members of the honor guard carefully and precisely transfer the remains to the caisson, a horse drawn carriage. Then we march to the grave side in formation to the music of the Air Force band.

At the grave side, the chaplain leads the team bearing the remains to the grave, or if it is the columbarium, the the central pavilion. There the chaplain conducts a short service of tribute to the person's service. Sometimes an escorting minister will conduct the religious portion of the service. Often the chaplain provides this for the family. Then military honors are rendered. The flag, which has been held motionless over the body by the honor guard for the duration of the service, is now precisely folder and presented to the chaplain with a final salute, who then turns and presents it to the next of kin offering the final salute to this flag which is now retired from service in honor of the military member who is being buried. At this point, an Arlington lady, one of our fine volunteers, comes forward and offers condolences to the family members. Following this, the chaplain offers his personal condolences and comfort and the ceremony is concluded.