Cheney speech got Arlington Cemetery wrong – Thursday, 3 August 2000 19:28 (ET)

August 3, 2000 — Contrary to the emotional picture painted by Dick Cheney in his speech at the Republican convention Tuesday night, there are no crosses in Arlington National Cemetery.

In accepting the Republican nomination for vice president, Cheney closed  his speech with a moving description of the helicopter ride he used to take from Andrews Air Force Base to the Pentagon when he was Secretary of Defense.

He described the power of the various monuments of Washington in the order the chopper passes them, ending with the famous military cemetery that abuts the Pentagon.

“Just before you settle down on the landing pad, you look upon Arlington National Cemetery…its gentle slopes and crosses row on row,” Cheney said. “I never once made that trip without being reminded how enormously fortunate we all are to be Americans, and what a terrible price thousands have paid so that all of us…and millions more around the world…might live in freedom.”

But Cheney's memory is slightly off. The graves in Arlington are marked with white headstones, rounded at the top. According to the Veterans Administration Web site, “Following World War I, a board of officers adopted a new design to be used for all graves except those of veterans of the Civil and Spanish-American Wars. This stone was of the slab design  referred to as “General” type, slightly rounded at the top, of American white marble, 42 inches long, 13 inches wide and four inches thick. The inscription on the front face would include the name of the soldier, his rank, regiment, division, date of death and state from which he came.”

The stone can also be engraved with a small cross or a Star of David.

Lieutenant Colonel Catherine Abbot, a Pentagon Public Affairs official, told United Press International on Thursday, crosses are “not the standard there, but I would not want to be the one who said there are no crosses.”

Cheney would appear to be confusing Arlington with Flanders Fields, a poem written by John McCrea about the World War I battlefields of Northern France: “In Flanders fields the poppies blow/ Between the crosses row on row.”

Nobody in the Bush-Cheney campaign could offer immediate comment on this story.

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