Tag Archives: military

Dad’s Funeral at Arlington Cemetery

Funeral at Arlington

My Dad was a Veteran of WWII and served in the Air National Guard for many years.  Rising through the ranks, he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel—two grades below General. Toward the end of his life, he tragically suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for more than ten years as it inexorably ate away his memory. Like the saying, on July 8, 2011 at age 92, the old soldier finally faded away.

 He was bestowed the privilege of burial in Arlington Cemetery for his valor during combat duty in the Pacific. The National Cemetery schedules 27 internments a day, including burials of active duty soldiers serving in Afghanistan–we waited nearly seven weeks for Dad’s cremated remains to receive a proper military service. Our family opted not to wait until November 3rd, the earliest date available for full military honors including a caisson to carry him to the gravesite.

As anticipated, plans and procedures were meticulously carried out despite the earthquake that hit Virginia a day earlier. We entered the main gates and it was so humbling to see mile after mile, row upon row of perfectly aligned white marble slabs, identifying more than 320,000 servicemen’s graves. The mere sight will snap even a civilian to attention.

We were directed to the Administration building and then to a gathering room for families awaiting ceremonies. A television monitor displayed live coverage of the soldiers guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, something that transfixed the grandchildren’s attention.

My 91-year-old Mother and I handed over the required documents and were given a map with a marker denoting my Father’s plot. We drove to his internment location, past the Air Force Memorial whose spires of steel evoke the vibrant force of flight. A squad of soldiers awaited in formation to escort Lieutenant Colonel John Palmer, Jr.’s urn to the gravesite. Our family and friends followed. A highly decorated military chaplain delivered a brief service with the utmost dignity and care. His speech was passionate and he praised my Dad for serving his country in a courageous way. He honored my Dad and all the others buried in the hallowed sanctuary and hailed my father as a true American patriot.

A three-volley salute was fired by a formation of  seven soldiers stationed to our left. A lone bugler played Taps, a somber farewell muted by the enormity of the endless grounds. The flag, held over the urn during the service, was precisely folded by six members of the unit and delivered to the leader for inspection. He then passed the triangular shaped cloth to the chaplain who presented it to my Mother. Although the chaplain did not know our family, his warmth was genuine and you could feel his sincerity.

An Arlington Lady approached my Mom, a representative of the wives of soldiers buried here, and paid her respects–a truly noble gesture by this group of volunteers.  Then we stood and filed by his remains placing a red rose on the stand.

The ceremony didn’t take long but it was a poignant and most dignified way to send off to a man who loved his country and proudly served. All is well and now he gently rests in the Nation’s shrine.

If you go:

Arlington National Cemetery lies across the Potomac River from Washington, DC and is open from 8 am to 5 pm except from April 1-September 30 when it stays open until 7 pm.  Paid visitor parking is off Memorial Drive. Access to the cemetery is free and visitors may walk to see John Kennedy’s grave or the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; however it is a mile uphill. To avoid the walk, purchase tour bus tickets at the Visitor’s Center to see Robert E. Lee’s house and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Visitor Information at 877 907 8585 or www.arlingtoncemetery.mil


This poem is authored by Lolete Barlow, the wife of an AF officer who is now deceased. Mrs. Barlow attended the October 2006 dedication of the Air Force Memorial and was inspired to write this poem. She gave it to the Air Force Memorial Foundation so that it could be shared with all of you.

October 2006

They’re not as tall, nor fleet of foot.
Their hair no longer dark, has thinned
Or disappeared perhaps,
And yet the spark of who they were,
These warriors of old, radiates from each of them,
The skilled, the brave, the bold.

Long years ago when they were young
They flew through foreign skies
And fought for home and country,
For freedom and the lives
Of loved ones left behind.

These pilots, gunners, bombardiers,
Ground support and engineers
Fought valiantly a world away
Defending what we have today
Half a century later.

From all the missions that were flown
Too many never made it home.
Instead they sleep ‘neath foreign soil
With fellow airmen—comrades all.
None will be forgotten.

To all who wore the Air Force blue,
To all the men and women who,
Though gone before us, live on still
In memory upon this hill.
We gratefully salute you.

Now spires of stainless steel curve high
And yonder pierce the wild blue sky,
A hilltop tribute all can see
A monument to victory
And heroes who secured it.


© Lolete Barlow

Scotland – Recommending Edinburgh’s Military Tattoo

Imagine one thousand performers crammed elbow to elbow in a stadium or, in this case, the Castle Esplanade. Columns and columns of bagpipers, drummers, band members and dancers squeeze together for the grand finale.  The audience roars and claps their approval, then a hush falls over the crowd. Those seated reach out and grab hands with one another.  Music resumes and they start to sway and sing  Auld Lang Syne.  I remember that moment vividly, as it sent goose-bump chills through my body, raised unexpected emotion and a sense of national pride.

Edinburgh Military Tattoo
View from the bleachers of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Two thousand and ten marks the Diamond Jubilee Year of Edinburgh’s celebrated Royal Military Tattoo which will take place from August 6-28th, against the backdrop of Edinburgh Castle. This royal residence, atop a volcanic rock, has been around since at least 12th century. In 1566 Mary Queen of Scots gave birth in the castle to her only child, the future King James VI of Scotland and I of England.

I was fortunate to see the world’s most spectacular Tattoo in 2007 on a trip to Scotland’s capital city.  According to Wikipedia, ” The word “Tattoo” is derived from “tap toe” (“toe” is pronounced “too”), the Dutch for “Last orders”. Translated literally, it means: “put the tap to”, or “turn off the tap”. ”

The British adopted the practice, played by a regiment’s Corps of Drums to tavern owners, to turn off the taps so that the soldiers would retire. Later in the 18th century, the term Tattoo was used to describe not only the last duty call, but also a ceremonial form of evening entertainment performed by military musicians. So, today’s  tattoo is a performance of military bands and extras. In Scotland it calls for bagpipes and drums.

Bagpipers marching and playing in the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
Bagpipers marching and playing in the Edinburgh Tattoo

This year an expected 217,000 people will see the Tattoo live on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle, and it has sold out in advance for the last decade. Thirty percent of the audience are from Scotland and 35% from the rest of the United Kingdom. The remaining 35% of the audience consists of 70,000 visitors from overseas. The Tattoo is televised in 30 countries and an additional 100 million people see the event on television worldwide.

I remember strolling alongside a tangled traffic jam toward the floodlit castle, perched on a massive crag. Near the top, I passed  through century’s old oak gates and took a grandstand seat. I could feel the excited anticipation of the other ticket holders.  Soon, the swelling sound of hundreds of pipes and drums cracked through the air and a kaleidoscope of colors began to appear.

Military bands marched in formation, immense flags were unfurled and graceful dancers whirled. The highlight, for me, was the Lone Piper on the Castle ramparts.  Lit by a single spotlight and the flickering flames of the Castle torch lights,  he played a haunting lament that brought tears to my eyes. Why is the sound of a bagpipe so soulful?

As his melody faded away,  fireworks burst over the Castle hanging in the dark sky.  But the solemn mood continued as the crowd now joined together in song.  I remember glancing toward my Scottish neighbor’s face and feeling a sense of unity.  The Edinburgh Military Tattoo has become a recognizable symbol of the city, one that imparts a shared love of Scotland, her music and traditions.

Attending a live performance has been checked off my bucket list, but I encourage you to add it to yours.

Dancers perform
Dancers perform in the annual Edinburgh Tattoo.

If you go, make your lodging choice from the hotels in Edinburgh city centre and plan to walk everywhere.  The crowd in the city resonates with  infectious cheer.