A Brief History of Gold Star Mothers and Family’s Day

By TIMOTHY JAMES LAWSON on 9/25/2022

By: Abigail Carey

The origin of what would become Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day started with a simple accessory: a black armband with a gilt star.

Posthumous Medal of Honor Recipient Laid to Rest

By TIMOTHY JAMES LAWSON on 9/16/2022

By Kevin M. Hymel, ANC Contract Historian

U.S. Army Air Forces Lt. Col. Addison E. Baker, who earned the Medal of Honor posthumously, was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on September 14, 2022. Baker gave his life trying to save the lives of his bomber crew and the crews around him during the bombing of Romanian oil fields and refineries—the famed Ploesti Raid—during World War II.

Thunderbirds Honor Air Force Twin Generals Buried with Their Wives at ANC

By TIMOTHY JAMES LAWSON on 9/14/2022

By Kevin M. Hymel, Contract Historian

On September 14, 2022, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration squadron flew a unique formation over Arlington National Cemetery to honor the burial of twin brothers Lt. Gen. Charles “Buck” and Maj. Gen. Cuthbert “Bill” Pattillo and their wives. Typically, one F-16 pulls out of the six-aircraft pattern to create the missing-man formation, but in this flyover, two pulled out to honor the two former Thunderbird pilots. “We don’t have a name for it,” said Capt. Kaity Toner, a fellow Thunderbird pilot. “We just call it the ‘Pattillo Pull.’”

The Thunderbirds were honoring their own with the formation, since both Pattillo brothers helped found the Air Force’s first demonstration team, the Sky Blazers, and the subsequent Thunderbirds. The two F-16s that pulled out of the formation were on the left and right wing, both of which positions the Pattillo twins flew.

Vietnam Veteran Marine MOH Recipient Laid to Rest at ANC

By TIMOTHY JAMES LAWSON on 8/25/2022

By Kevin M. Hymel, ANC Contract Historian

When the Marine veterans of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, First Marines, recall Sergeant Major John Canley in combat, they use one word to describe him: calm.

While fighting in Vietnam’s Battle of Hue City in February 1968, enemy fire injured Canley’s company commander. Canley took over the company and led his Marines for days, helping to drive the enemy out of the city in house-to-house combat. During the fighting, Canley exposed himself to enemy fire several times to rescue Marines or to drop a satchel charge on an enemy strongpoint. His actions at the Battle of Hue City earned him the Medal of Honor.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Commemoration Lecture Series

By JENIFER LEIGH VAN VLECK on 8/10/2022

By Allison S. Finkelstein, Ph.D., Senior Historian, Arlington National Cemetery

In the months after the 2021 centennial of the creation of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) has continued to make the programs created for this anniversary accessible to the public online. On May 30, 2022—Memorial Day—ANC released a major virtual project as part of this ongoing effort: the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Commemoration Lecture Series.

Bagpiper for the Wild Blue Yonder

By TIMOTHY JAMES LAWSON on 8/9/2022

By Kevin M. Hymel, ANC Contract Historian

On June 17, 2022, as Air Force Col. Charles McGee’s funeral at Arlington National Cemetery came to an end, the sound of bagpipes filled the air. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adam Tianello, dressed in a unique uniform which included an Air Force tartan kilt, played “Amazing Grace” for the mourners, providing a poignant conclusion to the ceremony.

By the time Tianello, The U.S. Air Force Band’s only bagpiper, blew into his bagpipes to end the McGee funeral, he had already performed at about 1,575 funerals. He only plays for funerals for Air Force colonels and above (per U.S. Air Force regulation). “I will play any tune the family will want to hear,” said Tianello. Yet he does not play for the departed. “I play for the people that are there, to help them with the grieving process.”

Navy Spouse Funeral at the Columbarium

By JENIFER LEIGH VAN VLECK on 8/5/2022

On July 28, 2022, the inurned remains of Helen Zmuda joined those of her husband, Robert Zmuda, in the Arlington National Cemetery columbarium. The couple had been married for more than fifty years when Robert passed away in 2012. Helen’s extended family attended the funeral and bade farewell to their matriarch.

WWII Veteran Killed in Burma Buried at ANC

By TIMOTHY JAMES LAWSON on 8/2/2022

By Kevin M. Hymel, ANC Contract Historian

Brothers Peter and Robert Esmay never knew their uncles Myles and Gardner Esmay, both of whom died in service to their country during World War II. Myles Esmay died fighting with the U.S. Army to capture the town of Myitkyina in Burma on June 7, 1944. Almost a year later, Gardner Esmay died aboard the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill when two suicide kamikaze aircraft struck on May 11, 1945. Their brother Irwin Esmay, who witnessed the attack on the Bunker Hill as a sailor on another ship, survived the war and returned home to father five children, two of whom were Peter and Robert.

Air Force Chaplain Retires After More Than 2,000 Funerals at ANC

By TIMOTHY JAMES LAWSON on 7/26/2022

By Kevin M. Hymel, ANC Contract Historian

On Monday, July 18, 2022, after conducting more than 2,000 funerals over an eight-year span at Arlington National Cemetery, Chaplain (Col.) John L. Elliott, Jr. performed his last funeral as a uniformed Air Force officer. As a Reserve officer, he supported more funerals than active-duty Air Force chaplains serving a two- or three-year tour.

Elliott has also used his yearly ten months of active duty to conduct funerals, when he was technically attached to the Air Force District of Washington and the Pentagon. With so much experience, the Air Force often gave him a heavy work load. He once performed fifteen funerals in one week.

USS Oklahoma Pharmacist’s Mate Buried at ANC

By TIMOTHY JAMES LAWSON on 7/22/2022

By: Kevin Hymel, ANC Contract Historian

Cheshire funeral

On November 9, 1941, 40-year-old James Thomas Cheshire, a chief pharmacist’s mate aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma, wrote a last letter to his son, but he did not know it. Less than a month later, the USS Oklahoma capsized after multiple Japanese torpedoes struck her hull, entrapping and killing 429 crewmen, including Cheshire.