Entries in Arlington National Cemetery (9)


Civil War Sailors Buried at Arlington National Cemetery

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(ARLINGTON COUNTY, Va.) -- Two unidentified sailors from the USS Monitor were buried Friday at Arlington National Cemetery on the 151st anniversary of ironclad's famous battle with the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia. The descendants of the 16 sailors who perished aboard the ship when it sank in a New Year's Eve storm in 1862 are grateful for the considerable interest in Friday's interment.

A decade has gone by since the ship's turret was raised from the ocean floor in the waters off Cape Hatteras in 2002. Efforts to identify the two sailors have proved unsuccessful so far, though it has been determined that they were Caucasians who stood about 5'7" tall, one was in his late teens to early 20's, the other in his 30's.

Andrew Bryan from Maine told ABC News earlier Friday that the graveside ceremony would be an emotional event for him. His great grandfather William Bryan served as a yeoman on the Monitor when the ship sank. Based on Bryan's age and stature it was believed he could be the older of the two sailors identified through forensic work.

The DNA results from samples Andrew Bryan provided to investigators, however, have proven inconclusive. But he is hopeful that a positive ID could be around the corner now that a female relative in Australia has agreed to provide a DNA sample, making a mitochondrial DNA match possible.

"He spent his life on the ocean so if he's still there that's fine, but if this is him I want him to be recognized," said Bryan.

Bryan is gratified by all the attention the burial has generated and says this may be the last time the Monitor sailors are honored on the national stage, "but as for our family it's a continuance ... it helps keep the story going, there's an interest to it, people will better understand the roots of our country."

Another descendant has also been heartened by the interest the Monitor burial has generated. William Finlayson had two ancestors who served on the Monitor, one of whom was John L Worden, the Monitor's first captain, who was injured in the battle with the Virginia. The other ancestor was Worden's nephew who served as Worden's aide.

Finlayson is also grateful. He says that you get a sense among the descendants of the 16 who perished that "you can only feel in your heart if you're directly related to it by blood and to see so much interest and so many people turn up, it's just incredible."

Noted Civil War historian James McPherson called the recognition for sailors who fought for the Union long overdue as they deserve as much recognition as soldiers who died at Gettysburg. He pointed out that every sailor aboard the Monitor was a volunteer, just as every sailor in the Navy was at the time. However, he said they were undertaking a hazardous duty because of speculation at the time the ironclad was being put into service that it "would be a coffin for the crew and that it would sink, not float."

He describes Friday's burial as "our chance as a nation to pay our respects and say goodbye" the Monitor's sailors. The attention is "fully deserved" and recalling Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, he says, "they did pay their last full measure of devotion and in turn we ought to recognize and acknowledge that."

The remaining 14 sailors who perished aboard the Monitor are likely contained aboard the rest of the ship's wreckage which lies in waters 250 feet deep.

The Monitor National Marine Sanctuary contains about 85 percent of the ship's structure.

David Alberg is the superintendent of the NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, which he describes as hallowed ground. "We treat it as a gravesite, it is hallowed ground. It is a place where tremendous sacrifice was made in defense of our country." He says between 15 and 20 divers a year undertake the difficult dive to the ship's wreckage and they all come back saying the same thing. "It's history and they're coming face to face with something that everybody learns about in history books."

Alberg accompanied the remains Thursday as they were flown to D.C. He's struck by the interest in their burial and thinks it's a unifying event. He thought it was ironic that the sailors were fighting to preserve the union and that it was appropriate that their final trip took them over a country they had helped to create.


Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Remains of Two Civil War Sailors Head for Arlington

Original Artwork: Print by Currier & Ives. Photo by MPI/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The remains of two sailors from the Civil War’s USS Monitor arrived at Washington’s Dulles Airport Thursday morning in preparation for their burial Friday at Arlington National Cemetery.  The remains of the two unidentified sailors were found inside the turret of the iconic ironclad ship when it was found in the waters off of Cape Hatteras, N.C., in 2002.

The Union ironclad sank in a storm off the cape on Dec. 31, 1862, nine months after its landmark sea battle with the Confederate ironclad, the CSS Virginia -- previously known as the Merrimack.  The two sailors were among the 16 believed to have perished with the ship when it sank to the ocean floor. Fifty other sailors were able to survive the ship’s sinking.

The Navy plans to bury the two unidentified sailors on the 151st anniversary of its encounter with the Virginia in the Battle of Hampton Roads.  The battle of the ironclads was considered a draw, but the era of wooden ships was over.

For the past decade the Navy has tried to identify the sailors’ remains through genealogical research and forensic work conducted at the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii, the same lab that identifies the remains of Americans recovered from the battlefields of Korea and Vietnam.

Though their identities still remain to be determined through DNA analysis, the forensic work determined that both were Caucasians who stood about 5-feet-7, one was in his late teens to early 20s, the other in his 30s.

A year ago, clay models of what they may have looked like were made public after a forensic reconstruction of their skulls.


The two flag-draped caskets were transported from Hawaii aboard Delta Airlines flights.  The plane that arrived at Dulles was a connecting flight from Atlanta.

Following military custom and the law, Navy officers and a Navy Ceremonial Guard were on the windswept tarmac as part of the Dignified Transfer to escort the remains to two waiting hearses.

The plane’s passengers remained aboard the aircraft as airport workers made preparations to off-load the caskets from the plane’s cargo hold onto a conveyor belt.  Throughout the Dignified Transfer many of the passengers could be seen peering through the plane’s windows snapping photos with their phones.  The ceremony was also witnessed by people inside the terminal looking out the picture windows by the plane’s  airport gate.

As each casket was moved down the conveyor belt it was greeted by a Navy chaplain and other Navy officers who stood at attention and saluted the remains.

As the chaplain said a brief prayer over each casket, airport workers could be seen bowing their heads in prayer.

Sailors from the Ceremonial Guard then approached to carry solemnly each casket to its hearse.

The burial of the two sailors has generated nationwide interest.  Juan Garcia, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, the senior official on hand for Thursday’s arrival, said the interest is easy to explain.

“This resonates for the Navy, for the Navy’s and for the whole country. Everyone has a stake in this,” he told ABC News.

He described it as a message that carries over to today’s service members.

“The sense of ’thank you, folks,’ for paying the last full measure of devotion, for being willing to raise their right hand, to go into harm’s way.  And fulfilling our promise to bring them home and to lay them to rest properly, even if it takes a century and a half to do so,” Garcia said.

Navy officials have said that these sailors could be the last two Navy personnel from the Civil War to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, a cemetery established during the Civil War on Robert E. Lee’s estate.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Obama to Honor Veterans, Attend ‘Carrier Classic’ Basketball Game

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(SAN DIEGO) -- President Obama will travel to San Diego on Friday to attend the first annual Veterans Day “Carrier Classic” basketball game on the same aircraft carrier that buried Osama bin Laden at sea.

Obama, an avid basketball player, will attend Friday evening’s game between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Michigan State along with roughly 7,000 fans, mostly active military personnel.

The Carrier Classic will by played on the USS Carl Vinson, the Navy carrier that conducted the bin Laden burial at sea after he was killed by Navy SEALs in May in a raid ordered by the president.  The game will be the first-ever college basketball game played on a flight deck, unless the weather prohibits the outdoor game -- in which case it will be moved to the hanger deck below.

The game won’t be the only Veterans Day event for the president.  In the morning, the president and first lady will attend a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, where Obama will also deliver remarks.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


President, First Lady Honor Service Members Killed in Iraq, Afghanistan

Leslie E. Kossoff-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama and the first lady Saturday morning visited the section of Arlington National Cemetery where the U.S. service members who died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are laid to rest to pay tribute to them.

The president and Michelle Obama made their way to section 60 of Arlington, where they met with a family visiting a grave and walked a row of grave sites hand in hand.  They also took a few minutes to greet others at the cemetery, shaking hands and taking pictures.

Section 60, located in the southeast part of the cemetery, is the burial ground for military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This was the president’s third visit to the section.

After the visit, the president and first lady traveled to a Washington, D.C.-area service event.  They will participate in a number of 9/11 memorials and tributes on Sunday.

The two wars launched by the United States after 9/11 have claimed the lives of 6,213 military personnel.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Man with Suspicious Materials Detained Near Pentagon

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(ARLINGTON, Va.) -- A man who was carrying suspected bomb making materials and pro-al Qaeda literature was arrested in Arlington National Cemetery early Friday morning, triggering a bomb scare that snarled Washington's morning rush hour. The FBI, however, determined that the material in his backpack was harmless.

"There was not a device and the products found are determined right now to be inert," said Brenda Heck, special agent in charge of counterterrorism for the FBI.

The material in the suspect's backpack tested negative as a potential explosive, sources said.

Sources told ABC News earlier that the backpack contained what was believed to be ammonium nitrate and spent ammunition for an automatic weapon. The material was reportedly contained in four large Ziplock-type bags.

Sources also said there were pro-al Qaeda statements found in a notebook that contained mostly notes for a financial class. There was also was a page containing words "al qaeda," "Taliban rules," "mujahidin" and "defeated coalition forces."

Two separate law enforcement sources told ABC News that law enforcement identified the suspect as Yonathan Melaku, 22, of Alexandria, Va. U.S. Park Police said no charges have been filed against him yet.

Melaku is a naturalized citizen and lance corporal in the Marine Corps Reserve, 4th engineer batallion out of the Baltimore, Md.

Sources say they haven't found any ties to a terrorist organization.

Police and the media congregated at Melaku's home in Fairfax County, Va. where two people were seen being questioned by authorities and FBI agents. The FBI and Fairfax police were seen huddling in groups and putting police tape to prevent people from entering the area. They went into the townhouse with bomb technicians without a search warrant under the "public safety hazard" issue.

An FBI spokesman would not confirm whether the house was indeed Melaku's or his parents' residence, but did say it's connected to the suspect and there was no safety hazard.

Melaku allegedly told police in Arlington when he was captured that there were other "devices" in the area and also the location of his vehicle. But the FBI said there was no reason to believe other individuals were involved and they believe the suspect acted alone.

Police were investigating a vehicle, a red 2011 Nissan, that contained materials authorities were examining to determine if it was a bomb or other weapon. The material was reportedly neutralized, according to law enforcement spokesmen at the scene.

Park Police Sgt. David Scholsser said in a news conference the man was found at about 1:30 a.m. in the Arlington National Cemetery, located near the Pentagon. He was first caught by the Ft. Myers police but then ran into adjacent Arlington National Cemetery, where he was apprehended by the military. When questioned, Melaku was uncooperative but then took the police to his car.

Melaku was arrested last month for smashing windows and stealing valuables from 27 cars in Leesburg, Va. He was charged with four counts of grand larceny although the police did not find any discernible ideological motive.

A man by the same name and birth month was also arrested in Fairfax County for reckless driving and failure to stop. He pleaded guilty and paid a $200 fine for the former charge and $30 for the second charge.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Attends Funeral for Last WWI Vet

Alex Ogle/AFP/Getty Images(ARLINGTON COUNTY, Va.) -- President Obama traveled across the Potomac to see Frank Buckles, the last American veteran of World War I, laid to rest with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday. Buckles died at the age of 110 at his home in Charlestown, W. Va. in February.

The unexpected visit by President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden was kept secret until they arrived the cemetery.

Before burial, Buckles, a former Army corporal, lay in repose in a flag-strewn casket in the Memorial Chapel at Arlington. A slow stream of mourners filed through to pay their respects. A soldier stood guard at Buckles' casket throughout.

A congressional scuffle of sorts broke out earlier this month over how to honor Buckles and the 4.7 million American veterans who served in the war. Susannah Flanagan, Buckles' daughter, wanted her father to lie in repose in the U.S. Capitol rotunda to represent all American veterans of the war, but Congress did not muster support.

President Obama ordered flags be flown at half-staff on the day of Buckles' burial.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Last WWI Vet to Lie In Honor at Arlington National Cemetery

Alex Ogle/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Rep.  Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., announced Friday that the last WWI veteran - Frank Buckles - will lie in honor at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday, March 15.

“I am pleased to welcome West Virginians to Washington, D.C. to pay their final tributes to Frank Buckles, the last surviving U.S. World War I Veteran, who passed away last month. Although I am disappointed that Frank will not lie in honor in the Capitol, it is fitting that he will lie in honor at Arlington National Cemetery, surrounded by fallen soldiers and American war heroes,” Capito said Friday.

Capito introduced legislation along with West Virginia Senators Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefelller - to allow Buckles to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda, but Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid denied the effort and instead suggested a memorial service at Arlington.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Arlington Cemetery Mix-Ups Continue

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ARLINGTON, Va.) -- In October, Arlington Cemetery officials heard allegations involving multiple burials of cremated remains in a single location.  It was then that they discovered a grave marked “unknown” that contained eight sets of cremated remains, though paperwork indicated there was supposed to be only one set of remains at the grave.

Concerned by the development, the top official at the Arlington National Cemeteries Program asked for the Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) to launch an investigation into how that came to pass.  It began the investigation in early November.

CID now has identified three sets of the remains because, apparently, the urns had markings by which they became identifiable. Families are being notified.

One set of remains was unable to be positively identified and was re-interred in the original grave site marked with the “unknown” headstone.  The effort to identify the others continues.

The cemetery’s troubles first were documented in June with the release of an Army Inspector General report that found systemic problems with record-keeping at the cemetery. It said an initial review had found at least 200 unmarked or misidentified graves.

The latest gaffe was in August -- the discovery that several graves contained mismatched sets of remains. That incident was deemed a result of human error. 

CID Special Agents are continuing to work to identify the other sets of cremated remains. This is an ongoing investigation and all information and evidence concerning improper or illegal burials will be considered by the CID. The leadership of Arlington National Cemetery and the Army take these matters seriously and are fully committed to taking the necessary actions to restore the integrity of Arlington National Cemetery.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 


A Father's Letter: Semper Fi

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- No funeral at Arlington National Cemetery is ordinary.  Each one marks the passing of an American hero who gave his or her life for their country and who leaves a family with a gaping hole.  But some carry a symbolic significance that others do not. 

On Nov. 22, one such funeral will be held.  Twenty-nine-year-old Marine Robert Michael Kelly will be buried that day, leaving a grieving wife, siblings, parents, friends and fellow servicemembers.  His father will be among them.  He is Lt. Gen. John Kelly, a three-star Marine General with another son serving with the corps.  Lt. Gen. Kelly is the highest ranking officer to lose a child in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He sent out a powerful letter after his son's death.

In the letter, Kelly talked proudly, but sadly, of his son.

"He went quickly and thank God he did not suffer.  In combat that is as good as it gets, and we are thankful.  We are a broken hearted - but proud family.  He was a wonderful and precious boy living a meaningful life.  He was in exactly the place he wanted to be, doing exactly what he wanted to do, surrounded by the best men on this earth."

The young marine was posthumously promoted to 1st Lieutenant after his death on Nov. 9.

Lt. Gen. Kelly closed the letter asking people to save most of their prayers, not for his beloved son, but for those still in harm's way, facing danger for their country.  In closing, he wrote "The pain is unimaginable" and thanked his supporters, ending with the Marine Corps motto, "Semper Fi."  Always faithful.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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