Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni surprised Arlington National Cemetery’s Curator Rod Gainer when she told him about the history of Italy’s Unknown Soldier. As Gainer was concluding a personal tour of ANC’s Memorial Amphitheater Display Room, which features a historical exhibit on the American Unknown Soldier, Meloni explained how the Italians chose their unknown soldier from World War I.
“In Italy, we had twelve mothers choose,” Meloni said. She then explained that one woman was picked from the twelve to make the final choice from eleven sets of remains. “The other mothers followed her into a room,” the prime minister concluded, “and one of the mothers chose one casket.”
Gainer had explained to Meloni that the American Unknown Soldier had been chosen from among four caskets by an enlisted man. On discussing the twelve Italian mothers, Gainer said, “That is probably the best way to choose, for the sons that never returned home.”
After the history exchange, Meloni laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. She returned to the Display Room, where Gainer told her about the Unknown Soldiers from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Upon learning that the Vietnam Unknown was eventually identified as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Blassie and returned to his mother, Meloni commented, “It is a beautiful thing.”