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The Arlington Ladies - Serving Veterans and Their Families

Updated on September 19, 2014

An Arlington Ladies Lady

An Arlington Ladies and Her Escort
An Arlington Ladies and Her Escort | Source

Angels of Arlington

For more than 35 years, the Arlington Ladies volunteers have represented veterans of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard at every funeral at Arlington National Cemetery.

Currently 195 Arlington Ladies, volunteer time to pay tribute to nation's fallen and serve their grief-stricken families.

The Arlington Ladies are all former or current military spouses, helping families who are attending services or serving in place of families for soldiers who have no one who can attend. They ensure that no soldier is ever buried alone.

Arlington Ladies

A Group of Women

who volunteer to Honor

the Soldiers who have given

their lives for our country

Mission of the Arlington Ladies


What we do is always important and meaningful,
but when you are alone at a funeral there is an added relevance.
You feel an even greater need to be there,
like you're helping to close the circle.


Linda Willey
13-year Arlington Ladies Veteran

The founding mission of the Arlington Ladies was to ensure that no soldier is ever buried alone. Their mission has evolved over time to serve the needs of family members, whether they are present at the funeral or not.

If family members are present, an Arlington Lady will deliver a personal note of condolence from the chief of staff's office along with their own note of condolence.

The Arlington Lady follow-up with another hand-written letter six to eight weeks later, as a reminder that they are still available if needed.

Image Source: Arlington Ladies pass milestone marker, pass on tradition. Pentagram Newspaper. September 16, 2005

Arlington Ladies Honor Fallen Soldiers - Video

Formed 60 years ago, the Arlington Ladies attend every funeral at Arlington National Cemetery to ensure that no military service member is ever buried alone.

Ensuring there will always be a presence at Soldier funerals in Arlington National Cemetery.

Entering Arlington Cemetery

Entrance to Arlington Cemetery
Entrance to Arlington Cemetery | Source

History of the Arlington Ladies

The origins of the Arlington Ladies started in 1948 when Air Force Chief of Staff General Hoyt Vandenberg happened upon the funeral of an airman at Arlington. He was very disturbed by the fact that there was not one present at the service except for the chaplain and the Honor Guard members. It bothered Chief of Staff to watch a fellow airman make this final journey alone.

When he recounted the story to his wife, Gladys, and how disturbed he was by the airman being buried alone, she promised to personally attend the Air Force personnel burials.

Gladys Vandenberg founded the Arlington Committee for the Air Force in 1948; this Arlington institution eventually became known as the Arlington Ladies.

The Army Arlington Ladies was founded in 1972 and the Navy in 1985. The Marine Corps does not have a contingent of Arlington Ladies, but a representative of the Commandant is present at every funeral.

There are three branches of the Arlington Ladies for the Air Force, the Army and the Navy, with nearly 200 active members.

Source: Shawn Macomber. May 2005. The Arlington Ladies. The Spectator.

A Special Report on The Arlington Ladies - Video

We're here to pay our respects and support the families of those lost.

— Linda Willey, 13-year Arlington Ladies Veteran

Friendgrief: An Absence Called Presence on Amazon

Friendgrief: An Absence Called Presence (Death, Value and Meaning Series)
Friendgrief: An Absence Called Presence (Death, Value and Meaning Series)

Friendgrief includes a mention of the Arlington Ladies, ensuring that no service person is buried alone.

In Friendgrief, Harold Ivan Smith looks at the role of friends in the grieving process. The book includes vignettes from the lives of well-known friend grievers along with moving narratives of seasoned friendgrievers.

 

Witnessing the Funeral

Witnessing the Funeral
Witnessing the Funeral | Source

What we do is always important and meaningful, but when you are alone at a funeral there is an added relevance. You feel an even greater need to be there, like you're helping to close the circle.

— Linda Willey, 13-year Arlington Ladies Veteran

Another Arlington Ladies and Her Escort

United States Army Arlington Lady being escorted to the grave of a service member
United States Army Arlington Lady being escorted to the grave of a service member | Source

I am your Arlington lady,

not just now but forever,

and you can always contact me.

It's a bond that is built to last.

— Paula McKinley, Chair of the Navy Arlington Ladies

Role of the Arlington Ladies

An Arlington Lady is always present at every burial, internment or Inurnment ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington National Cemetery holds as many as 100 funerals a week, Monday through Friday or upwards of 20 funerals a day.

The Arlington Ladies are always accompanied by a military escort, Members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard). They wear a distinctive red, white and blue pin that incorporates the Army Chief of Staff's flag.

The Arlington Ladies have a strict Standard Operating Procedure that they follow.

  • An Arlington Lady does not cry.
  • She dresses in muted, conservative civilian dress.
  • She is not a professional mourner.
  • She is not a grief counselor.
  • She is there as a witness at every Arlington funeral as the personal representative of the chief of staff.
  • She is there to shepherd the fallen soldier during his or her final mile.
  • She is also there to say "Thank You" to the family.
The Arlington Lady delivers a personal hand-written note of condolence to the family along with a note of condolence from the chief of staff's office.

Image Source: The Ladies of Arlington. Official Government Website.

Delivering a Personal Sympathy Note

Delivering a Personal Sympathy Note
Delivering a Personal Sympathy Note | Source

Arlington Ladies present hand-written sympathy cards to the next-of-kin of deceased military men and women at the Arlington Funeral.

Becoming an Arlington Lady

Understandably the Arlington Ladies are a very selective volunteer group. This is not a role that many people would want to take on and perform.

In order to become an Arlington Lady, one must be asked to join their ranks by another Arlington Lady.

The Arlington Ladies is open only to military wives or widows. Many are the wives of high-ranking officers and, as military partners, have witnessed decades of military history.

Margaret Mensch, chairperson of the Army's Arlington Ladies perhaps sums up the reasons many participate.

It's an honor to be asked to be a part of these ceremonies that pay tribute to the everyday heroes that make up the armed forces. We're just giving back a little to those who have given us so much.

Arlington Ladies Hand-written Card

Arlington Ladies Hand-written Card
Arlington Ladies Hand-written Card | Source

The tributes come straight from the heart and always includes a hand-written note of condolence.

Those moments they share with the families and our servicemen and women are intensely personal.

The Arlington Ladies, as a group, really are committed to keeping those moments and their work sacred.

Army Major Kevin Stroop

Regimental Chaplain

Wings of Our Own in the Amazon Spotlight

Wings of Our Own
Wings of Our Own

Wings of Our Own is a collection of stories about those "who also serve."

This 240-page book is full of personal narratives and anecdotes and provides a linkage to the past as well as a taste of the present. These true tales of military life are emotionally charged, educational, inspirational and often humorous.

 

Arlington National Cemetery on Google Maps

A markerArlington National Cemetery -
Arlington National Cemetery, VA 22211
get directions

Book on Arlington National Cemetery on Amazon

A News Article on the Arlington Cemetery Workers

Since 1999, Margaret Mensch has chaired the Army division of the Arlington Ladies, organizing a crew of 63 volunteers headquartered in a cramped office in the cemetery's administrative building.

© 2008 Kirsti A. Dyer

Reader Feedback on the Arlington Ladies

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    • profile image

      sean-friendly 4 years ago

      I just found out about this group. I'm moved by their dedication to this duty. They are essential! God bless them all!

    • LewesDE profile image

      LewesDE 5 years ago

      Quality information!

    • Brandi Bush profile image

      Brandi 5 years ago from Maryland

      I've never heard of the Arlington Ladies...what an incredible group of women! I would really like to feature this on my Celebrate America lens. If that is okay, I was wondering if you think it would fit better under Arlington National Cemetary or Military Veterans or Organizations Supporting Our Troops...I can't decide. :) Thank you!

    • profile image

      yourgoldenfuture 6 years ago

      lovely site...when we realise war is no solution we wont need any organisation like this anymore...

    • choosehappy profile image

      Vikki 6 years ago from US

      Sounds like a wonderful group; I hadn't heard of them before either. *Blessed* by a Squid Angel;)

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 7 years ago

      This is one of my favorite lenses so I am coming back to give it an angel blessing and a feature on Angels Unaware

    • JenOfChicago LM profile image

      JenOfChicago LM 7 years ago

      What an interesting group - I was not aware of them. Thanks for a beautiful, timely, lens.

    • tandemonimom lm profile image

      tandemonimom lm 8 years ago

      I did not know about the Arlington Ladies. They perform a beautiful service to their country. Thank you for sharing this lens. 5*

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 8 years ago

      God bless the Arlington Ladies! This made me cry. I'm afraid I'd never make it as an Arlington Lady. I am grateful for this very valuable service they provide for the families of our fallen heroes.

    • The Homeopath profile image

      The Homeopath 8 years ago

      What beautiful women. I remember at my Grandfather's funeral, the military provided an honor guard and he got a gun salute. The soldiers who came were so young, but they were intensely proud to be there performing that duty for a fellow soldier.

    • ChristopherScot1 profile image

      ChristopherScot1 8 years ago

      Great lens!

    • daoine lm profile image

      daoine lm 8 years ago

      I hadn't heard of the Arlington Ladies and I really enjoyed reading about them here. It's a lovely gesture - I can't bear the idea that someone might be buried completely alone - and you've done a wonderful job, as always, on your lens.

    • Angelina Gherna profile image

      Angelina 8 years ago from California

      wonderful lens, so great to have people like this out there giving much needed comfort :)

    • Franksterk profile image

      Frankie Kangas 8 years ago from California

      What these devoted women do is wonderful and much appreciated. Your presentation was beautiful and moved me to tears as only a few lenses have. Bless you and bear hugs, Frankie

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