Showing posts with label Arlington National Cemetery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arlington National Cemetery. Show all posts

Friday, December 14, 2012

Wreaths Across America - Saturday, December 15, 2012

Arlington National Cemetery
Tomorrow marks the twentieth anniversary that holiday wreaths will be placed on veteran’s graves in Arlington National Cemetery.  What began as a labor of love for a Virginia man has grown into a national organization known as Wreaths Across America. Wreaths are now being laid at veteran’s graves and cemeteries throughout the country, in all 50 states, on one special Saturday in December.

WAA Logo
Wreaths Across America (WAA) is a non-profit organization that was founded to continue and expand the annual wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery that began in 1992.  Their motto:  Remember, Honor, Teach, is still as important and vital as it was when the organization began.

Military Graves
Unboxing Wreaths
Over 100,000 balsam wreaths will be displayed on the headstones at Arlington this year.  Over 400,000 wreaths will be shipped to locations throughout the US, and abroad.

Unloading Trucks at a Cemetery
S.A.R. Volunteers
This year's annual theme: Then, Now, Forever – Let’s Make it Personal” was chosen because many military families fear that their loved one’s sacrifice might be forgotten.  According to WAA Executive Director Karen Worcester, “Our goal is to make this year come alive in the stories, imaginations, and memories of all those who serve and sacrifice.” 

Awaiting the Veteran's Parade
Parade of Trucks
The Veteran’s Parade is a week-long trip from Harrington, Maine to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. WAA stops along the way for tributes and ceremonies to remember our fallen veterans, honor those who serve, and teach others about the sacrifices made by veterans and their families. 

Patriot Guard Riders
Trucks In Route to Virginia with Wreaths
The Veteran’s Parade is escorted along the East Coast route by the Patriot Guard Riders.  The group volunteered their services in 2006 and has continued to offer their support for the weeklong driving event.

Children Line Parade Route
Volunteer Trucker Scott Harris
Over 50 national trucking companies have volunteered the use of their trucks this year, and volunteer truckers from across America are giving of their time in picking up and delivering the wreaths to designated towns across the country, just in time for this Saturday's official wreath laying ceremonies.

All Veterans are Honored
WAA uses live wreaths as a living tribute to recognize and honor those who served.  They would like this symbolic gesture to be seen as a tradition, as a living memorial to honor veterans and their families.

Shanksville, Pennsylvania

Wreath Laying Ceremony

Wreath laying ceremonies will take place around the country tomorrow, in cemeteries large and small. A wreath display will also be set up to honor the victims of 9-11 in New York City, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

WAA Radio
The National Wreaths Across America Remembrance ceremony at Arlington Cemetery will be held at 12 Noon EST tomorrow, December 15th.  You can follow the events on WAA Radio @

Wreaths are paid for by individuals, groups, sponsors, and corporate donors. Individual wreath sponsorships are only $15.  Last year, over 1,100 groups raised funds to assist the wreath sponsorship program. If you would like to sponsor a wreath for the 2013 Wreaths Across Americas Remembrance celebration, visit

To learn more about Wreaths Across America, visit

Or find them on Facebook @

Pierre Claeyssens
Wreaths Across America
As Pierre Claeyssens said, “To be killed in war is not the worst that can happen. To be lost is not the worst that can happen... to be forgotten is the worst.”


Friday, January 6, 2012

Grave Problems at Arlington National Cemetery

Welcome Sign to ANC
Arlington House during
theCivil War
What began as a burial ground during the Civil War in 1864 has become one of our most revered national cemeteries, Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) in Virginia.  But all is not tranquil there. 

Arlington Graves
Extensive paperwork
ANC began making news in 2008 when questions were raised about cemetery management.  Then in 2010 it was discovered that there were problems with some of the paperwork corresponding with burial locations.  An investigative audit was scheduled.  Two weeks ago, the findings of this audit concerning improperly marked graves at Arlington made news.   It was reported that almost 65,0000 graves at ANC may have discrepancies, including graves being improperly marked, gravesites not found where indicated, and graves left unmarked. Rectifying the problem will be troublesome since much of the cemetery paperwork is inaccurate or missing.
Last December the Army announced that a criminal investigation had been launched into the misplacement of remains at Arlington.  Then in June 2011 the FBI was requested to assist in the investigation.

Thurman Higginbotham
Higginbotham at ANC
The cemetery’s administrative personnel have been investigated numerous times by the U.S. Army in the past twenty years.  No major actions were taken because, reports indicate that a plan of disciplinary action was never agreed upon.  But enough finally became enough. In May 2009, an Army Criminal Investigative Command investigation announced that Deputy Cemetery Superintendent Thurman Higginbotham had lied under oath, had lied to Army investigators about accessing employee’s files, and had engaged in sexual harassment. Higginbotham was placed on administrative leave.

John C. Metzler, Jr.
Metzler with President Bush
Higginbotham and Cemetery Superintendent, John C. Metzler, Jr. were also charged with being negligent in refusing to use a computerized database that would have “triple verified” burial records at Arlington.  Metzler was fired from his position for improper management of the cemetery. He had held the title of Cemetery Superintendent for nineteen of those twenty years it was under scrutiny. Both Metzler and Higginbotham retired with full benefits.

A 'problem' grave
  The Army’s ANC Gravesite Accountability Task Force announced on December 22, 2011, that they had discovered that 211 graves were unmarked or improperly named.  After reviewing almost 260,000 graves and comparing information to 510,000 records, only 196,000 graves were validated. A count of 64,230 have been discovered to have problems ranging from minor paperwork errors, to misspelled names on gravestones, to mislaid bodies, according to their report. That’s about 25% of the burial sites located in Arlington.

Arlington Graves & Flags
The Arlington National Cemetery Gravesite Accountability Task Force is now trying to reconcile records and conducting a physical identification of each grave in the cemetery.  Every marker will be counted and each headstone will be photographed so that all of Arlington’s records will be available on one database and act as a reliable record of the cemetery.  That would account for over 320,000 remains in the 624 acres cemetery.  The Task Force expects to have the situation resolved by summer.  While progress is being made in the Arlington case, it appears that these situations are becoming too prevalent.  We must begin holding those accountable for these “problems” that continue to plague our deceased service men and women.

~ Joy

Friday, December 9, 2011

Wreaths Across America – Saturday, December 10th

Wreaths Across America

Tomorrow communities all across America will gather together to honor our fallen veterans during the annual Wreaths Across America Day.

Wreaths at Arlington
Morrill Worcester
Wreaths Across America began 20 years ago when the Morrill Worcester, owner of the Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, Maine, decided to donate live wreaths and have them placed on the headstones at Arlington National Cemetery.  Military families expressed profound appreciation for this gesture, pointing out how difficult and emotional the holiday season can be for a veteran’s family.

Ceremony Locations for tomorrow
Over 600 ceremonies will be held throughout the country tomorrow, in national cemeteries, public and private graveyards, and in State House ceremonies in all 50 states, all to honor those veterans who have given the ultimate sacrifice. 

Wreaths on the prairie
Fresh evergreen wreaths will be placed to honor of each branch of the service, Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, Merchant Marine, and MIA/POW, along with wreaths put on individual graves.  In Arlington Cemetery alone over 100,000 wreaths will be placed.

WAA Poster
The objective of Wreaths Across America is to teach the younger generation about the sacrifices that war can require and offer an appropriate manner to honor those who have served.  “Remember, Honor and Teach” is their motto.  Most ceremony coordinators will offer a short briefing on the proper etiquette of laying a wreath.  Youth organizations and school groups across the country will be taking part.

Truck convoy of wreaths
Parade route down the East Coast
A parade of escorts, friends and trucks started in Maine on Sunday, December 6th, scheduled to arrive at Arlington with fresh wreaths gathered throughout the trip for tomorrow’s ceremonies. During the 5-day journey, the motorcade stopped in communities all along the East Coast, spreading the word and encouraging Americans to “Remember, Honor and Teach.”   The Patriot Guard Riders escorted them to veterans’ homes, schools, and monuments all along the way.

A Veteran remembers
It is expected that over 400,000 wreaths will be placed tomorrow throughout cemeteries in all fifty of the United States.  Over 160,000 volunteers, many veterans, will take part in the events.

Honoring our fallen
If you are interested in attending a ceremony or taking part, check out their website at Wreaths Across America,

Or connect with Wreaths Across America on their Facebook page,

~ Joy

(All photos courtesy of Wreaths Across America website and Facebook pages.) 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Divining the Dead

18th Century Dowser

Regardless of what you call it, divining, witching, dowsing, or Rhabdomancy - there is now quite an interest in this ancient art.
Grave dowsing has caught the attention of genealogists around the world as a way to locate the unmarked graves of ancestors. It can also be utilized to help locate lost burial grounds, find pioneer cemeteries, and uncover the burial grounds of Native Americans.

Y Branch

Witching, divining or dowsing has been used for centuries to locate water, oil, caves, precious metals, artifacts and treasure.  Cave paintings depicting dowsing have been found in France, Spain and the Middle East.  

Pharaohs were buried with dowsing tools and etchings on how the tools were used have been found on the walls of their tombs. Dowsing is mentioned in the Old Testament.   The Greek poet Homer referred to dowsing as Rhabdomancy – meaning divining rod in Greek.  Dowsing with a pendulum was popular in ancient Greece. In the 1700 and 1800’s. Europeans used forked branches to locate water and ore deposits. The U.S. military used dowsers in the Viet Nam War to locate land mines and hidden tunnels.  The British military had dowsers on the Falkland Islands to help locate unexploded ordnances.

De Vinci
There were times in history when dowsers were considered to be witches, or evil.  The Catholic Church assisted in this rumor by declaring that the devil was involved, giving dowsers ‘special powers.’  Dowsing fell from favor and went underground during the 1500's and 1600’s.  Victorians revived an awareness of it with their interest in the mystical and spiritual.  Many well-known people were dowsers including Leonardo De Vinci, Robert Boyle, Otto Edler von Graeve and Albert Einstein.

There are mainly four types of dowsing items used.  There is the rod, usually from a peach, willow or witch hazel tree.  The L rod can be brass, copper, aluminum, even wire coat hanger, bent in the shape of an L.  The Bobber rod is a long, slender, tapered stick.  The Pendulum is not a rod but a weight with a chain or a string attached.

L Rods

The actual skill of dowsing is not hard to learn.   L rods are easy to use and to explain.  You can make your own from wire coat hangers. Simple cut off the hook and straighten out the wire.  Make a bend about 4 inches in on the wire to create an L shape.  The smaller part of the L will be the handle. Create another and you have two L rods.

L rods held out

Stand normally, hands at your side.  Raise your arms to bend naturally at your elbows, with your forearms parallel to the ground.  Hold each rod straight out.  The rods should be held lightly in your hands.  Do not place your thumbs over the bend in the rods.  Now begin walking slowly and calmly toward the area you wish to test.  When you step on a grave the rods should cross or swing apart. When you step off the grave, the rods should uncross or swing back to their former positions.  Before you attempt to go into uncharted territory to divine graves, get your feet wet.  Take your rods to a cemetery and practice the art of dowsing there.

Many dowsing books and articles mention that cemeteries in the U.S. are usually laid out with heads pointing west and feet pointing east.  Supposedly this will aid you in identifying the gender of the body.  I have been in countless cemeteries where this is not the case.  While it may have begun in that manner, through the centuries, especially in large cemeteries, the bodies have been buried with the lay of the land.  Regardless, working your way from north to south will help you create an organized search route and may be able to determine the width of the cemetery.

Counting steps to determine age
Once you get familiar with the rods, you may want to try to identify age and gender.  Age can be guessed at by the length of the body.  Count your steps lengthwise along the body.  A general rule of thumb is 1 or 2 steps for an infant, 3 or 4 steps for a child, 5, 6 or 7 steps for an adult. 

...indicates a female.

A swing to the left...

For gender, there are several methods.  An easy  one is to push one rod in the ground at the center of a grave.  Step back away from the grave and reapproach the grave with the remaining rod in one hand, out in front of you.  A swing to the left indicates a female; to the right is a male.  You can attempt to verify by approaching the grave from the other end and see if the verdict is the same.  (This is why practicing in a cemetery is useful – The stones will verify what you’ve found out.  Try different methods in order to discover what really works for you.)  Also remember, dowsing rods can also pick up on cremated bodies and animal remains

Dowsing Forms
So how does it work?  Better still, why does it work?  There are no true proven answers.  Theories abound that there may be a physical connection made between the dowser and the item sought.  It could possibly be an energy vibration that the dowser tunes into and the diving rods amplify, causing them to move.   Scientists say that the rods are not picking up on soil disturbances, metal in the ground, magnetic fields, or decay.  But as many have proven, believing in dowsing is not required for it to work.

Not everyone can dowse.  Just as we don’t know why it works, we also don’t understand why some people have the ability and some don’t.  As a water witcher, I felt compelled to try grave dousing.  I have always used peach or willow branches as Y dowsing rods, but discovered that the metal L rods work fine.  Cajoling my husband to assist me, we went to Richmond Cemetery in Richmond, Kentucky so I could see if I had, as my grandma would have said, ‘the touch.’  Grandma would be proud - I do.

Albert Einstein
Be skeptical, if you like.   After all, many consider this to be based on folklore, superstition, placing dowsers in the same category as charlatans and with doctors. Albert Einstein explained dowsing as a way of using the human senses to perceive something that is “unknown to us at this time.”     And since he had a good grasp on things being ‘relative,’ I can buy that!  ; D

To learn more about dowsing visit these web sites:

International Society of Dowsers
American Society of Dowsers
Appalachian Dowsers      
Canadian Society of Dowsers

~ Joy