As official Arlington National Cemetery funerals move from the Old Post Chapel to Memorial Chapel on Fort Myer, soldiers are making preparations for logistical changes in services and reducing the impact on post traffic.
Soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry, The Old Guard, gathered with representatives of other service honor guards March 22 in front of Memorial Chapel to assess how things would be handled in the new staging area.
There Military District of Washington Ceremonies Officer Major Triton R. Gurganus walked honor guard representatives, Fort Myer Military Community Provost Marshal Lieutenant Colonel Mary Beam and cemetery officials through the procedures that would be followed in the two-month-long changeover scheduled to start Monday.
Gurganus said, instead of having a military escort waiting directly outside the entrance to the chapel, as occurs at the Old Post Chapel, the escort would be stationed in the parking lot adjacent Memorial Chapel.
Garganus said this means soldiers will have to carry remains a longer distance than they usually do.
“You better have your soldiers eat their Wheaties in the morning,” he told honor guard representatives.
First Lieutenant Kevin Jinks, Memorial Affairs S-3, said honor guard soldiers who typically carry remains 10 to 20 feet for services at the Old Post Chapel will now have to carry them approximately 100 feet while services are held at Memorial Chapel.
“It won't change the ceremonial requirements for the soldiers,” Jinks said.
“Physical training will still focus on extra body strength.”
Staff Sergeant William Harris, an assistant administrative sergeant with the Caisson Platoon said horse-drawn processions would continue to travel the traditional route from the stables area at Forrest Circle along Marshall Drive and Lee Avenue toward the Old Post Chapel.
But instead of stopping there, it would continue on along the cemetery wall through the parking lot past the tennis courts and on to the perimeter parking lot of Memorial Chapel.
It is a route the Caisson Platoon soldiers have taken in the past for periodic funerals held at Memorial Chapel.
Sergeant Major Mitchell Spray, drum major for The U.S. Army Band's Ceremonial Band, said he did not anticipate any major changes in having funerals moved from one chapel to the other.
Since Memorial Chapel isn't right outside the door of The Army Band's Brucker Hall, as is the Old Post Chapel, soldiers might have to take a little extra time to get ready.
Spray said a shuttle bus would deliver musicians to Memorial Chapel, where they would then be situated on the lawn adjacent the chapel at the beginning of a funeral, before moving into the parking lot at the conclusion
of a service.
Funerals taking place at Memorial Chapel will exit Fort Myer into Arlington National Cemetery using Selfridge Gate. The entrance is located at the back of the parking lot midway between the chapel and the tennis courts.
The back half of the parking lot has already been cordoned off with concrete barriers to limit traffic to funeral activities. The front half of the parking lot — the portion closest McNair Road — will be reserved for guests
attending funerals at the chapel Mondays through Fridays beginning April 1. On weekends the parking lot will reopen to the public.
Sergeant First Class Robert Goold, FMMC provost sergeant, said that unauthorized vehicles parked in the Memorial Chapel parking lot weekdays will be towed at owner's expense.
Goold said funeral services at Memorial Chapel should have minimum impact on traffic in the vicinity and, when needed, automobiles would be rerouted through the post exchange parking lot for brief periods of time so as not to interfere with funeral services.
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard