The Arlington Ladies are a group of women who attend the funeral of every member of the United States armed forces who is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The group also includes one man who is known as the Arlington Gentleman.
The history of the group traces its existence to 1948, when Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force Hoyt Vandenberg, and his wife Gladys, witnessed young servicemembers being buried without any family members present on one of their walks through the cemetery. Just a chaplain and a military honor guard, the standard attendees, were usually present. The lack of anyone honoring the young airman being buried prompted Gladys to form a group of members of the Officers' Wives Club to attend all Air Force funerals. In 1972, the wife of Army Chief of Staff General Creighton Abrams, Julia, founded the Army's version of the group. In 1985, the Navy also followed suit by creating a group of their own. The Marines do not officially have a group as they send a representative of the Marine Commandant to every funeral.
Originally, the women worked alone at the funerals. Escorts were eventually added as it was decided that they should appear to be a more official part of the ceremony. The escorts are also members of the Army's 3rd Infantry Regiment. The Army soldiers typically spend four months as escorts while the Navy men are permanently assigned and will spend their entire tours on assignment.
The ladies typically do not know much about the service member except the details the chaplain provides. The group initially included military wives, but it now includes military daughters and even a gentleman. The Army Arlington ladies must be wives or widows of Army men and be referred by a current wife. The Navy and Air Force follow similar requirements for their ladies.
- O'Neill, Helen. "Special lady for each Arlington soldier-Volunteers honor troops and make sure none is buried alone". MSNBC. Archived from the original on 31 May 2010. Retrieved 30 May 2010.
- The Arlington National Cemetery Website
- "Arlington National Cemetery Website". Arlington National Cemetery. Archived from the original on 3 June 2010. Retrieved 30 May 2010.