Arlington Lady

Back in 1948, Gladys Vandenberg, the wife of the Air Force Chief of Staff, General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, noticed funerals taking place in Arlington National Cemetery with no family, and with only a military chaplain present. She organized her friends to start attending the services, and later formed a group from the Officer’s Wives Club known as the Arlington Ladies. In the years that followed, the other services formed similar groups. Today, every servicemember who is laid to rest at Arlington has someone present to represent the “family” of that branch of service. The Arlington Lady writes each family a note of condolence, from herself and on behalf of all the members of the service.

From 1997 to 1999, I commanded the Air Force ceremonial unit in Washington, DC, and for most of the that time, my wife Jana was an Arlington Lady. She didn’t think she could do it at first; she thought the emotional toll would be too great. But she ended up serving one day a month, attending all the Air Force funerals that day, perhaps four or five.

Instead of being something she couldn’t do, it became something she couldn’t miss. Asked to describe the experience, Jana said simply, “It was an honor.”

During the current crisis, funerals have been postponed and loved ones have been laid to rest alone.

There’s something enormously sad and poignant about this.

Jesus weeps at this.

Thank God that Jesus walks with us through this, and that our loved ones rest in his arms.

And because of the resurrection, none of us need ultimately be alone.

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