Arlington Cemetery: bomb threats, history, and good byes

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Arlington Cemetery: bomb threats, history, and good byes

I've spent the last couple of days saying goodbye to my friend Jonn Lilyea of This Ain't Hell who passed away a couple of weeks ago.  Was the fastest turn around on an Arlington burial I've ever seen, but he was interred there on Tuesday morning, in a beautiful ceremony with the 3rd Infantry's Old Guard.  The weather would have made Jonn laugh, as it was infantry weather, i.e. it rained pretty much throughout.  And now my friend lays in quiet repose overlooking the Pentagon, which I'm fairly certain he will haunt, as he was never much for the thinking that came out of the 5-sided puzzle palace.

But just a day later Arlington got a bomb threat:

Arlington National Cemetery reopened and resumed operations about 3 p.m. Wednesday after an earlier bomb threat led officials to close the cemetery to the public for much of the day.

The cemetery tweeted emergency services had cleared all areas of the cemetery. The cemetery will now close at its normal time of 7 p.m.

A threat was made to the cemetery about 10 a.m. leading cemetery officials to evacuate families, visitors and employees from public buildings and work areas.

At around noon, Arlington National tweeted that the cemetery would remain closed for the rest of the day, though previously scheduled military funerals would continue as planned.

Personnel from nearby Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall responded to the threat, and vehicles were swept for possible explosives.

Part of me wonders if the bomb threat wasn't related to Jonn's untiring efforts to bust Stolen Valor guys, a pasttime that garnered him tons of lawsuits and death threats.  I guess time will tell who did this one, since presumably the people at Arlington won't rest until they find the culprit. 

Either way, as we begin to celebrate our Centennial Anniversary as a veterans service oirganization, it seems fitting that I note the Legion involvement in founding the Tomb of the Unknowns within Arlington.

Here's an awesome clip from Ken Burns' Civil War, which alas is't great quality on the recording, but is good to note the origins of ANC.

Within Arlington perhaps the biggest draw (and a mandatory stop point for any visitor) is the tomb of the unknowns.  The Tomb itself came about from an act of Congress, written, sponsored and pushed by Hamilton Fish, a Congressman from New York who had fought with the Harlem Hellfighters in World War I.  Fish was a founding member of The American Legion and Chairman of the three person comittee which wrote our American Legion Preamble.

From Wiki:

On December 21, 1920, Congressman Hamilton Fish introduced Resolution 67 of the 66th Congress, which provided for the return to the United States the remains of an unknown American soldier killed in France during World War I and for interment of his remains in a hallowed tomb to be constructed outside the Memorial Amphitheater in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia across the Potomac River from the nation's capital. Congress approved the resolution on March 4, 1921. On October 23, 1921 at Châlons-sur-Marne, France, about 90 miles from Paris, remains of an unknown soldier were selected from among four caskets containing remains of unknown American soldiers killed in France. The selected remains were returned to the United States and interred at the tomb site in Arlington on November 11, 1921 in solemn ceremony following a state funeral procession from the U.S. Capitol building where the World War I Unknown had lain in state. The tomb, completed in 1937, came to be known as The Tomb of the Unknowns (Soldiers) which is today guarded around the clock daily by elite sentries of the U.S. Army's historic ceremonial but combat-ready 3rd Infantry Regiment—"The Old Guard." The tomb, and unknown soldiers of three U.S. wars interred there today, is thought to be the most hallowed military site in the United States and may well be Fish's greatest legacy to the nation.

Fish was elected as a Past National Commander in 1979.

Here's a good video put out by the Public Affairs people at ANC which talks about the history of the Unknowns:

Somewhat interestingly incidentally, the picture at the top of this post is on Legionnaires visiting the tomb in 1928, before it even had a full time 24/7 guard.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.