Since the Pentagon was struck by American Airlines Flight 77, the people who run Arlington National Cemetery have been burying the dead, 64 to date. There was a brief debate about whether civilian Pentagon workers might be buried in Arlington, but the military didn’t bend the rules. The ceremony with which the dead are buried is unchanging.

Aspects of the traditional military burial date back to the Roman legions, says Thomas L. Groppel, director of ceremonies and special events for the Military District of Washington. ” ‘Taps’ goes back to the Civil War. The flag is visible, and there’s the presence of young soldiers. The families see that we’re building continuity — the young take care of the older. That’s been a tremendous source of strength. We will never leave our dead. It’s a function of our Western culture.”

Today, a ceremony in Arlington will begin with music, an invocation and a moment of silence. After that, the flags will come out, the national anthem will sound, and President Bush will speak. Tomorrow, the last unidentified remains from the Pentagon will be buried; it will, as one soldier says, be “the last burial, the final act.”

“Coming up on a year, we very consciously want to move away from those events, and move to — not forgetting — but another phase,” says Groppel. “We’ll pump a little patriotism in there.”

Read our general and most popular articles

Leave a Comment