October 18th, 2013
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Arlington National Cemetery has a heart.
Officials at the cemetery recently talked to families about their months long practice of leaving personal items on soldier’s headstones and Arlington is now compromising on its policies about leaving the personal mementos at gravesites.
Today’s post is an update of a story I  wrote about on October 3 discussing how staff at Arlington National Cemetery were collecting and discarding personal mementos left in Section 60 of the cemetery an area where soldiers who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried.  This area of the cemetery is where each visitor’s grief is new and raw.
A Military Headstone in Section 60
The families had no idea that their love letters, photos, balloons and other items were gone and thrown away until they visited their loved ones and found their tombstones bare.
Arlington National Cemetery staffers sat down and met  with the families on October 6 and discussed the situation and a compromise was reached.  Arlington says it now has a better understanding of the comfort that grieving families and friends receive when they leave personal treasures at the gravesites and softening the rules is a measure of support to the families in their time of grief.
Cemetery spokeswoman Jennifer Lynch said the cemetery will allow displays through the fall and winter months when the grass doesn’t need cut often and that the cemetery will also review its regulations and policies to see if long-term changes can be made.
Arlington National Cemetery is one of the nation’s oldest cemeteries and is run by the U.S. Army.  Section 60 holds special significance for that is home to soldiers most recently killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Arlington National Cemetery said it collected the mementos because it had been receiving complaints that Section 60 was looking less than military with photos, stuffed animals, balloons and love notes taped to headstones.  Officials also said people sometimes left inappropriate items in the cemetery such as ammunition, glass and alcohol.
But inappropriate as others might think them to be, those personal items were mementos of love, reflecting shattered lives and a need to try and make some sense out of what had happened to their loved ones.
Section 60 is truly hallowed ground.
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