Guest Author - Evelyn Rainey
The breeze lifts the new leaves and sways the ancient limbs of the guardian oaks. The silence is thick, but echoes faintly with the solemn voices of chaplains, guns salutes, and unyielding sorrow. Gentle greens marked off with precise rows of white stone stretch from north to south and east to west. Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for men and women who served this county with honor.
There are specific qualifications which have to be met in order to be interred or inurned at Arlington National Cemetery. Logically, eligibility for ground burial is more restrictive than for placement in the columbarium.
For ground burial, any active or retired member of the Armed Forces whose duty ended honorably may be considered. Under this wide banner falls specific groups: Medal of Honor, Distinguished Navy Cross, Distinguished Air Force Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, and/or Purple Heart recipients; Presidents and former Presidents of the US; veterans who held elective offices in the US government; Chief Justices of the US or Assistant Justice of the Supreme Court; any former prisoner of war who served honorably and died on or after November 1993. Spouses who were not divorced from or remarried widows/widowers and minor or permanently dependent children of eligible veterans are also considered for casketed or cremated interment, as well as widows/widowers of a member of the Armed Forces who was lost or buried at sea, Missing in Action, or interred overseas in a US military cemetery or Arlington as part of a group burial. If a minor or permanently dependent child is already buried at Arlington based on one of the parentís eligibility, then the other parent can also be placed there, as long as she/he was still married to or not remarried if widowed from the eligible spouse.
The Columbarium is a massive honeycomb for urned cremains. Anyone eligible for ground burial is also eligible for the columbarium. Also eligible is any Armed Forces member who died on, retired from, or served on active duty or training; any member of the Reserved Component of Armed Forces or Reserved Officers Training Corp of the Army, Navy or Air Force who died on, traveling to, or while hospitalized because of injuries due to active duty or training; certain commissioned officers of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or of the US Public Health Services. Also eligible are any citizen who served in the Armed Forces of another country during armed conflict in which the US engaged and allied with that country. As before, cremains of any spouse (not divorced from or remarried) and any minor or permanently dependent child of an eligible veteran may also be placed in the columbarium.
Arlington National Cemetery is a place where those who served our country with honor can be placed to rest. Eternal vigil is kept, a testament to the price of freedom and a promise to those left behind that their sacrifices will never be forgotten.