The tombstones of 270,000 veterans and family members stood as silent witnesses to the Easter Sunrise Service in the Amphitheater of Arlington National Cemetery Sunday morning at 6:30. An estimated crowd of 3,000 enjoyed a warm and sun-filled morning.
The festivities began with a pre-service concert by The U.S. Marine Band, “The President's Own,” at 6:15, as the attendees were filtering in to their seats in the early morning gloaming.
The “Hymn of Celebration” had the worshipers on their feet and singing loudly, sometimes on key.
Military District of Washington commander Maj. Gen. James T. Jackson welcomed the assembly and asked the audience to remember family members and friends who are serving their country in distant lands.
Chaplain (Col.) Michael R. Durham, MDW command chaplain, led the multitude in the Resurrection Day responsive reading.
“It was a great day to do it,” Durham said. “It takes an extreme amount of work.”
John Metzler, superintendent of the cemetery then read an Old Testament verse from Isaiah 65:17-25.
“It's (Sunrise Service) been 60 years now,” Metzler said. “This is the 11th year I've done it, and it was the best weather. The crowd came early, and it was a nice crisp audience. It takes six months of planning. Chaplain (James) May (Arlington National Cemetery Chaplain) worked 100 hours getting it ready.”
Staff Sgt. Kevin Bennear of the Marine Band delivered a stirring rendition of “Easter Song” just as the sun was breaking through the clouds.
Chaplain (Brig Gen.) Lorraine K. Potter delivered the sermon and spoke about the experience after the service.
“This is great,” Potter said. “There's no better place to do an Easter Sunrise Service, and we didn't freeze to death. I've been here before when my teeth were chattering.”
Dave Allen of Dallas was at the service with four generations of his family that included 13 members.
His parents had driven from Rome, Ga., and Allen's daughter is married to a Marine stationed in the area. The youngest worshipers in the Allen clan were his granddaughters, 3-year-old Kyli and 4-month-old Megan.
“My older brother's buried here,” Allen said. “It was super. I really enjoyed it. It was beautiful the way the sun came out.”
Jackson, who attended the services with his wife Nancy and their three teenage daughters, was pleased with the service.
“My chaplains did a great job,” Jackson said. “It took six months of planning. You can't help but feel something. It was special. Chaplain Jim May did a great job. He was the project officer and did a super job.”
May perhaps succinctly summed up the day's activities after the service.
“It was the completion of a lot of hard work,” May said. “It couldn't have gone any better.”
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