The President and Arlington

Posted on May 31, 2010


It’s a tiny little disturbance; not even a controversy, really. President Obama attended a Memorial Day ceremony at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood instead of laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. He’s been criticized for this decision. Here are the facts that I’ve been able to acquire.

1. The Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery was founded sometime between 1973 and 1995 (the website isn’t clear). The first military service person interred at Arlington was interred in 1864, during the American Civil War.

2. The National Cemetery system was established by President Lincoln in 1862. Fourteen national cemeteries were opened pursuant to his legislation.

3. President Reagan and both Bush presidents missed the wreath-laying at Arlington during their terms.

4. The Tomb of the Unknowns was not established until 1921. The 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week watch wasn’t established until 1937.

Arlington National Cemetery is an important place. The Tomb of the Unknowns, for me, symbolizes an eternal commitment to leave no one behind, to continue until every soldier’s fate is known. In my mind, that gives being at Arlington a slight edge over other national cemeteries, as far as the Commander in Chief of US forces is concerned. However, that’s only in my mind – it’s not necessarily supported by any historic facts.

So all in all, in the opinion of this veteran, it’s no big deal. President Obama recognized those who gave their lives in the service of our country, and he did so at a national cemetery. Anyone who criticizes him for not doing so at a specific national cemetery had an axe to grind before this ever came up. Had he blown off any ceremony at all, that would have been a slap in the face and I’d lead the charge with torch and pitchfork in hands. He didn’t.

The man’s job is hard enough. Lay off.

Posted in: Military