Those left behind: The legacy of Arlington’s Section 60

November 10, 2009

Larry Downing is a Reuters senior staff photographer assigned to the White House. He shares that duty with three other staff photographers. He has lived in Washington since 1977 and has been assigned to cover the White House, since 1978. President Barack Obama is the sixth president Larry has photographed.

“People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”  George Orwell

Veteran’s Day is a time to remember “All gave some….Some gave all.”

Before reaching the new gravestones in Arlington National Cemetery’s ‘Section 60’ it’s easy to recognize why a simple, quilted, patch of green grass and white stones buried alongside the quiet banks of the Potomac River troubles the heart.

Names etched into fresh marble tell the sad tale of early death …Travis L. Youngblood…. Justin Ray Davis….Andy D. Anderson….Thomas J. Barbieri Jr….. Kenneth E. Zeigler II….James R. McIlvaine …. America’s varsity players benched early in the game.

‘Section 60’ is America’s promise to honor its warriors for first serving, and then dying, in the strange dusts on foreign soil.

Its 22211 zip code is the final address for roughly ten-percent of America’s dead from combat action in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 570 service members from “Operation Enduring Freedom” and “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” are “interred, inurned or memorialized with honor inside the cemetery.”

Spend time in the section and you can’t help but breathe the restless cloud of uneasiness that hangs over the calm symmetry of the graves. Your eyes lie; you actually “see” the pieces of shattered hearts and lost ambitions scattered across the manicured grounds.

You “feel” why this is America’s field of broken dreams.

Fathers, mothers, widows and children are all lost as they chase the ghost of vanished love inside the shadows of a sinister fog.

Watch an abandoned friend or family member alone in anguish softly whispering to the dead and you’ll realize the devil deals mean cards.

Cards that have forced a grieving mother to stare at the letters of her baby’s name chiseled onto a gravestone not long after those same letters were neatly printed on a new birth certificate.

No woman deserves to lose her child in war and then tragically continue her life driving a car with the unwanted license plate reading “Gold Star Family.”

No wife should ask God “why” the only man who ever promised to protect her is gone.

And no child should ever cry out to mommy “where’s my daddy?”

An ‘Arlington’ funeral means a father will never experience the joy of giving his daughter’s hand away in marriage.

Television got it right when they called ‘Section 60’ “the saddest acre in America.”

Robert E. Drawl Jr…… Kevin D. Grieco…. Charles E. Wyckoff… Michael Ross Stahlman….

Death is the greatest equalizer; only after a funeral does the phrase: “…all men are created equal” written in the nation’s ‘Declaration of Independence’ take life.

Generals lie buried the same depth underground as the men and women they commanded in life.

Black, white, brown, or yellow skins are equal. There is no racial prejudice after death.

Republicans and Democrats agree…In silence.

Gays are finally treated with respect. No one asks…no one tells…

Passages recited from the Koran are as beautiful as those recited from the Bible.

The impact of two distant wars became personal once the “knocks on the door” delivered the horrifying news and haunted a house forever. Prayers that the Pentagon “got it wrong” vanished when asked if they wanted an ‘Arlington’ funeral.

‘Arlington’ is an idyllic hillside cemetery and is easily seen while driving on the Arlington Memorial Bridge towards Virginia. It’s the last stop straight ahead.

It’s also the last stop for those sons and daughters who were killed after announcing to their family they wanted to be “Army Strong” or part of “The Few…The Proud” and then fearlessly joined the deadliest profession.

They volunteered; even while never reading the frightening draft notice of their father’s generation. One sent on behalf of the President of the United States during the Vietnam War beginning with the terrifying, “Greeting….You are hereby ordered for induction into the Armed Forces of the United States….”

Both the draft and that war ended in the 1970’s.

The names of 58,261 brave Americans are etched into the “wall” inside the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at the other end of that same bridge.

About the time energetic eighteen year-old college freshmen are searching for an “awesome” campus tailgate party, America’s young soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen are finishing their individual combat specialty schools and boarding the express bus to the front lines. Thoughts of joining sororities and fraternities are long gone. Learning the dangers of the “kill radius” of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) and recognizing the “signs and symptoms of hypovolemic shock” are more important. A severed femoral artery is quick to kill in the field.

Today’s military volunteer swears to an oath to do “whatever it takes” to hold the protective umbrella over the nation during the storms in violent times.

Doubts of joining the military were erased after witnessing an attack on their nation September 11, 2001.

Things became clear for them in the dawn’s morning light.

‘Section 60’ is one of approximately 70 sections inside the 624 fenced acres of ‘Arlington’ where more than 320,000 heros are honored. The first military burial took place in 1864 during the American Civil War when the cemetery opened.

The U.S. Army’s 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) maintains a sentry inside the cemetery on duty every second of every day.

The ceremonial guards from each branch of service provide military honors during the somber burial of one of their own.

Temporary paper markers are placed in the dirt above the grave after a funeral while waiting for the permanent marble stones.

Ryan Patrick Baumann….Eric W. Hall….Colby J. Umbrell….James C. Edge….

A triangular folded American flag is all that remains to hold for the devastated family members during a funeral in ‘Section 60.’

“Gold Star” mother Lyvonne Lightfoot hugs the flag that draped her 20 year-old son’s casket on August 4, 2009. Anthony M. Lightfoot died in Afghanistan, July 2009, while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Rebecca Baldeosingh holds the flag from her husband’s casket at his funeral on August 4, 2009, after he was killed last June in Iraq.

The Iraq war made Laura Youngblood an early widow in 2005 while pregnant with her second child. Husband Travis Youngblood was a U.S. Navy medic who died from wounds suffered from an IED during combat operations with the U.S. Marines in Hit, Iraq.

She visited her husband in May 2009 during the Memorial Day weekend.

After touching his gravestone, she stood up, gently kissed the top of the marble and said, “See you tomorrow, honey.” And then left….

“Gold Star” mother Paula Davis thought she was an “Army of One” when raising her only child, Justin, alone for eighteen years before turning him over to the U.S. Army. He had just graduated from high school weeks earlier and he had no fear of serving in wartime.

Justin was spirited and was strong. “A million dollar smile,” Mrs. Davis proudly boasts. Proof is seen in a large photograph moments after entering her home in Maryland. “He wanted to be in Kung Fu movies…the next Jet Li.”

And he loved the idea of joining the Army so much that the night before he reported for his first day of duty he made his mother stay up with him and watch two war movies, “Saving Private Ryan,” and “Black Hawk Down.”

Hours later they drove to the U.S. Army recruiting office. Mrs. Davis was now alone for the first time in nearly two decades. “I drove a few blocks down the street, stopped, and just cried….”

One year later she cried again…only harder. Justin was finally coming home from the war and “did she want him buried at Arlington?”

The entire time he was gone she thought “Afghanistan was a safer war,” she said.

For two months after his funeral Mrs. Davis slept inside his bed; “I still go and sit on his bed for comfort.”

Justin’s room is exactly as it was the day he joined the army in 2005. The four cardboard boxes containing his belongings from Afghanistan are still unopened on the floor of his room.

Justin’s first pair of baby’s shoes hangs from the door knob to the room.

Mrs. Davis drives to ‘Section 60’ after church every Sunday, “rain or shine,” to honor him. “If I don’t, who will?” “This is our Vietnam Memorial,” she said.

She then explained, “The burden of two wars falls on a select few….Most Americans are not asked to sacrifice. Our leaders should find every means possible to not go to war…”

Justin died shortly after turning 19 years-old. “He would have been a great father…..now I’ll miss that,” said Mrs. Davis.

Mrs. Davis and “Gold Star” mother Xiomara Mena (Anderson) are best friends now after meeting in ‘Section 60.’ Their boys are buried within steps of each other. Mrs. Anderson is also a “Blue Star” mother; she has two other children serving in combat overseas.

Mrs. Anderson patiently uses her household scissors to trim the grass around the gravestone of her son, Andy D. Anderson, who died in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in June 2006. “Arlington takes good care of my son…” she said, “but I like to keep him neat.”

Mrs. Anderson’s motherly instinct is still alive after three years since Andy’s funeral. Watching her carefully clip the grass around her son’s grave seems as natural as watching a loving mother making up her son’s bed in the morning.

“Gold Star” mother Vicki Zeigler deserves her own medal for the unwavering devotion to her son, Kenneth E. Zeigler II; driving EVERY weekend to visit ‘Arlington’ from Dillsburg, Pennsylvania. Kenneth died while serving with the U.S. Army in Baghdad, Iraq, in May 2005.

Mrs. Zeigler arrives early and unfolds a beach chair before spending the entire day serenely staring at the name of her baby boy while recalling the day he was born after “6 hours of hard labor” in 1983.

Kenneth loved “God, mom, family, ‘Metallica’ and the New York Yankees…and in that order,” says Mrs. Zeigler.

“He was a momma’s boy until the end,” she proudly said. As he was lying on the ground and fighting for his life while wounded his sergeant leaned down and whispered “we’ll take care of mom,” she explained. Kenneth then relaxed and slipped away after knowing his mom was in strong hands.

Mrs. Zeigler drives in a car devoted to the memory of her hero.

All three women expressed concerns for American’s who have loved ones in harm’s way and may be forced in the future to sit in the “green chairs” for family members during an ‘Arlington’ funeral.

Theodore Uland Church….Garrett T. Lawton….Darryl Demetrial Booker…. Deforest Lee Talbert…

Photojournalists assigned to military funerals are tough and rarely flinch. Cameras make great wallsto hide behind when emotions become powerful. Tears have always dripped down from behind mine during an “Arlington’ funeral.

Watching a sobbing widow hug a cold casket for the last time is unnerving.

Rebecca Baldeosingh and her daughters attended the funeral of her husband and their father, Juan C. Baldeosingh, who was killed last June in Iraq. He was buried in Section 60 with honor on August 4, 2009.

The most horrifying funeral I’ve attended was by accident at the end of the first Persian Gulf War in 1991 along the Iraq-Kuwait border. It still haunts me today.

Photojournalist Mike Nelson and I stumbled upon an eerie scene in the desert that belonged in “The Twilight Zone.”

Over 100 Iraqi soldiers were fleeing north from Kuwait at the end of the war when allied warplanes launched rockets stopping the head of the snaking convoy.

The attacking aircraft then dropped exploding gas bombs high over the remaining vehicles in the convoy. The explosion created huge clouds of fire above the troops and burned all the breathable oxygen without scorching anyone below.

In short, the explosion sucked the air out of the lungs of every man.

Each corpse looked alive as we approached and they were still holding their rifles while seated inside their vehicles.

The memory of that sharp, biting, warm stench of death remains with my lungs today.

The British army arrived and carved a mass grave using bulldozers. Soldiers respectfully dragged the scores of dead bodies across the warm sands to their final grave before prayers were offered over the fallen.

Nearly 19 years have passed since that day and Iraqi mothers are still wondering where their sons are buried.

The Americans stationed inside the secure air base in Da Nang during the Vietnam War were easy targets for the Viet Cong who were hiding in the surrounding mountains east of the base. The VC used seven-foot long, deadly 122mm Russian-made rockets launched inaccurately from bamboo bipods to terrorize the troops below.

Chalk was used to tally “the count” on a wall inside the perimeter and over 650 rockets were launched from those mountains between September 1972 and September 1973.

A lethal game of Russian roulette played against the grim reaper during the year of living dangerously.

“If you heard a rocket explode or heard the siren, you had one goal…grab your helmet, flak jacket and haul ass to the nearest sandbag bunker scattered around our compound,” said a friend of mine, a U.S. Air Force security policeman who survived that year.

During one night’s rocket attack that same airman raced into the thick, wet muck in the “binjo ditch” that was used to drain latrine water away from the barracks. Both of his feet slide in different directions when they hit the sewage and then stopped abruptly. His forward motion continued and both ankles were brutally twisted as he fell hard. The memories of the “pop and a blinding pain” around his ankles are linked with the intense fear of dying during that rocket attack.

The injuries were so severe that at “20 years old, I would never be able to run,jump or even walk normally for the rest of my life,” he writes in an email. “They would’ve healed if they both broke,” said the doctors.

September 1973 arrived and he hobbled aboard the “freedom bird” leaving Da Nang. Vietnam and the war were now in his rear view mirror…or so he thought.

In the years before he arrived “in country” the air base had supported “Operation Ranch Hand;” an Air Force program involving the spraying of millions of gallons of a harsh herbicide “Agent Orange” over the jungles of Southeast Asia. The deadly chemical was used to kill the thick vegetation hiding the enemy. “Agent Orange” was sprayed over the rivers, fields, and jungles of Vietnam altering the normal life cycle of all living plants, animals and humans on the ground.

Air Force Security Policemen patrolled the areas on the base where splashed “Agent Orange” had dripped onto the ground leaving a contaminated residue. My friend spent a year kicking up and inhaling that dust.

36 years have passed since he left Vietnam and he will never be able to enjoy the simple, pleasurable, act of walking a dog.

The permanent damage to his ankles combined with the exposure to “Agent Orange” leaves him 100% disabled.

His days begin, then end, sitting in a motorized wheelchair. It’s a painful “hell;” his crippling souvenir for bravely volunteering for a year in Vietnam.

“There were dark, dark periods of unmentionable anger, fear, even desperation a time or two,” he said. He admits he is now “a controlled drug addict” relying on powerful prescription drugs to ease the sharp pain he wakes up to each morning.

He was my hero when we were Air Force Security Policemen stationed together on an island in the Mediterranean and he is my super-hero today.  (I’ve omitted his name at his request).

Jeremy A. Chandler….Deveran L. Owen….Adam Leigh Cann…. Steven R. Koch….

Combat veterans find the search for “closure” a lonely battle after losing a friend in war.

Veterans’ motorcycle club “Patriots Pride” rode from Charleston, West Virginia, to visit the grave of soldier DeForest Lee Talbert who is buried at ‘Arlington.’ Each rider served in combat with Talbert before he died in July 2004.

Talbot’s son, Deontae James Hamlet, stands proudly with the men who knew his father.

Susan Blankenship traveled to ‘Arlington’ to “rub” the gravestone of Steven A. Davis for her son who served with Davis in Iraq. Mrs. Blankenship’s son could not make the trip to ‘Arlington’ but he wanted the rubbing for “closure.” Davis died in 2007.

“Gold Star” mother Carolann Barbieri sits alone as she writes a private letter to her son on July 4, 2009. Barbieri died in 2006 while in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Visitors to ‘Section 60’ leave small stones or personalized mementos on top of a grave to honor those buried below. Some are unique but most follow the simple Jewish tradition of leaving a single pebble per visit on the gravestone of a loved one.

Veteran’s Day is celebrated on November 11th in the United States.

It’s a national day of honor recognizing veterans for “throwing their hat in the ring” to protect those who couldn’t protect themselves.

Look for a veteran in November and buy him a cup of coffee, or a sandwich, and give thanks for their service.

Travel to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. and volunteer to help the “wounded warriors” who are fighting for their dignity with less than whole bodies.

U.S. Army Sgt. Joey Bozik (L) talks to Vietnam veteran Army Col. Oliver Mahatha Sr. (R) in the physical therapy room at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2005. Bozik lost two legs and one arm from an explosion in Iraq.

Wounded Army Sgt. John Daniel Shannon wears the Purple Heart with pride on his eye patch while testifying before Congress in 2007.

Or, walk the extra mile to ‘Section 60’ inside ‘Arlington’ and place a small pebble on the grave of an American hero….It’s their day.

U.S. Marine SSgt. William C. Rapier, of Quantico, Virginia, shows his son around Arlington National Cemetery in 2006.

Greg Lamonte Sutton…. Jamie D. Wilson…. Charles E. Wyckoff… Philip Andrew Johnson Jr…..

90 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Larry,Excellent work. I cried my eyes out. It’s said that every picture tells a story; your work here speaks volumes. We all owe a great deal to these heroes and the least we can do to help repay that debt is to make sure their sacrifices will never be forgotten. May their families find comfort in knowing that their loved ones are safely in the arms of God.

Posted by Joe Giza | Report as abusive

Larry,Your photos are indeed a great work of art. I cried like a baby. Our heros shall never be forgotten. They have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

Posted by Mario D'Artagnan | Report as abusive

Amazing work Larry! Thanks for these reminders of how many sacrifice for our priveledges.

Larrya moving picture storyfred

Posted by Fred Prouser | Report as abusive

Larry:More Americans must see these pictures and read this feature article. Our veterans and sons and daughters currently serving deserve our great respect and thanks. Their duty alone provides the freedom many take for granted. May God bless them all, may their memories be eternal, and may God bless and protect the United States of America. This is a most deserving and moving tribute. Thank you.ArtUS Army Veteran

Larry,We were very touched by your amazing photos and poignant writing. It really brings to the forefront the fact that wives and parents fight in each conflict right alongside their loved ones.We should all honor these veterans every day of the year not just Veteran’s Day!

Posted by Loren & Pat Stanfield | Report as abusive

Thank you for bring this to the attention of the American people. I personally belive that we soon forget those who have fallen that we can continue our way of life. We take too much for granted. I am Vietnam Vet and for the past year have been attending PTSD counseling at the Long Beach V.A.. On any day you can see vet’s there that have given up or are lost as to who they are.We need to remember those who have given so much and have returned home scared by battle for life. I have laearned that the memories never go away.But with out the military, where would this country be today??

Posted by Wiley M. Newman | Report as abusive

Thank you for remembering those who gave ALL they had for we we now enjoy.

Posted by George | Report as abusive

How humbled and grateful we should all be after witnessing the work above. I noticed all the headstones with the crosses and other symbols of religion. I looked at the names that I could read. I saw those directly involved near their loved ones. They were true heroes that have kept our country free from tyranny and oppression. God love them all.

Posted by James Coleson | Report as abusive

Have always admired your work…great job…peace for you and all you have witnessed…Jed, staff photographer The Baltimore Sun

Posted by Jed Kirschbaum | Report as abusive

Larry, as you wrote, lots of us journalists use the tools of our trade as a wall between us and the events that touch us deeply. Thanks for letting down the wall and showing what makes you a great photographer and a great colleague.

Posted by Deborah Zabarenko | Report as abusive

Larry,Thank you so much for taking the time and effort to create this picture story and blog entry. As the daughter of a career Air Force fighter pilot and Vietnam vet who died relatively early from Agent Orange-related illness, I have always observed Veterans’ Day and honored those fighting to maintain the freedoms and privileges we enjoy in this sometimes flawed but still great country. Your beautiful and haunting pictures and words evoke the real, intensely personal “costs” of nameless powers struggling on an international stage. The costs of war. My father always told me that on every Veterans’ Day, no matter where I was, I should find a person in uniform and simply tell them, “Thanks for serving.” You have done that beautifully.

Posted by Kathleen Grathwol | Report as abusive

Larry,A powerful tribute, beautifully done.

Posted by Jim Wolf | Report as abusive

Well done, lest we forget.

Larry,Amazing work.”Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me”

Posted by Alex Brandon | Report as abusive

Larry,Photographers can also write a thousand words. Impatient in life, yet brave of heart, they choose the faster path. It’s good to hear, as well as see, from you.

Posted by Zoraida Diaz | Report as abusive

I really enjoyed this article. I wish women veterans were honored in this way.

Posted by Sheila L. Holmes | Report as abusive

WELL DONE CONDOLENCES TO THOSE THEY LEFT BEHIND. MAY GOD GUIDE THEM TO THEIR ULTIMATE DESTINATION.THEY ARE REMEMBERED AND MOURNED.

Posted by CHARLES BOWEN | Report as abusive

May they all find peace. Thank you for protecting us while we sleep for making the ultimate sacrifice over seas. We will always be in your debt.

Posted by Jennifer Brugger | Report as abusive

Moved to tears, fabulous piece.

Posted by Boroheli | Report as abusive

Great reminder of the cost of war. Thank you

Posted by Shawn | Report as abusive

Freedom is never free. It is paid for in blood. God Bless America.

As a retired Army Sergeant Major who spent 22 yrs of a 34 year career recruiting soldiers for the Missouri Army National Guard, and as the father of two veterans of the Iraq War I would suggest that every potential recruit view your touching piece. The military can be a wonderful place to achieve security and to serve with pride, but all who volunteer must be made painfully aware that the sacrifices necessary may be devastating, not only to individual service members, but to those whom they love and who love them. One must be sure to the core that they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice before taking the oath of enlistment. If they are sure, and take that oath, well then, God Bless them and their families, and thank you for stepping up and serving.

Posted by Richard L. Grant | Report as abusive

The visual language of your photographs is an awesome tribute to the sacrifices made. I’m moved to tears.

Posted by John Morris | Report as abusive

We should be thankful

Wonderful education tribute to our service members. I served 25 years in the Army and was never in the “right place at the right time” for a combat tour. I do feel the weight of every loss of a fellow service member. I wish every high school civic class and University history course would put this on their syllabus. Great job.

Posted by Maria Worley | Report as abusive

Larry, your images and text brought tears to my eyes. I have always had the highest respect possible for our military and your moving presentation just makes it hit home all the more.

Posted by Herman Beals | Report as abusive

While they rest, they live on in our hearts. Great tribute! God Bless them all.

Beautiful site. Broke my heart.

Posted by C Burton | Report as abusive

A cornicopia of emotion. God bless our troops and God Bless America.

Posted by L. Goldston | Report as abusive

As a former Marine,I refuse to utter the usual useless,bland statements such as “thank you for your sacrifice”,or “thanks for keeping us safe”.Statements like that only allow this madness to continue using those subtle non-thinking phrases.How horrible to see pictures of women who’ve lost husbands and sons.What’s the goal of continuing this insanity?Why are we still there?I now know what the Vietnam war protestors felt.Why can’t our pathological leaders see that it is precisely because we’re over there that they hate us and not because “they hate us for our freedoms”(if they hated freedom,why aren’t they bombing Switzerland or Iceland?)I only wish that some brave general would step up and demand an end to this and maybe then we could work on a constitutional form of government where cowardly,coerced or dual citizen politician’s can do little harm.

Posted by David | Report as abusive

A well written article. We should all take the time to remember all of our VETERANS and their families for their service and sacrifices. GOD BLESS YOU AND GOD BLESS AMERICA!

Posted by Malinda | Report as abusive

I HAVE VISITED THE MILITARY CEMETARIES IN HAWAII (THE PUNCHBOWL.) AND IN BELGIUM. NONE OF THE MEN THERE WAS KNOWN TO ME PERSONALLY. FOR THOSE HEROES, AND THEY ARE ALL HEROES TO ME. I WEPT UNCONTROLABLY. MY THOUGHTS WERE OF THEIR LIVES NEVER LIVED, AND THE AGONY OF THEIR LOVED ONES THAT NEVER END!I AM 70 NOW, AND NOTHING HAS CHANGED,AS EVIDENCED BY THE COPIOUS AMOUNTOF TEARS THAT I AM SHEDDINGAT THIS VERY MOMENT!

Posted by TOM RITCHIE | Report as abusive

Thank you for this awe-inspiring and heart-wrenching photographic article. It should be required reading and viewing for every American over the age of 10.

Posted by Lewis Smith | Report as abusive

Eye opening, heart tugging, tears flowing.Wonderful article.

Posted by Mary | Report as abusive

It is rare that I have anything nice to say about Reuters.I strongly commend Reuters for this excellent and well written piece.

Posted by Ed | Report as abusive

I have experienced an Arlington funeral twice-my brother and my father-it brings forth many emotions…sadness, grief, loss, love, proud, admiration and thankful to be an American.

Posted by Barbara | Report as abusive

America is great and Americans are brave and great people.Every American soldier is like a brother for us even when we live in other parts of the world and even when we are not Americans.GOD BLESS AMERICA AND IT’S BRAVE SOLDIERS

Posted by Jan | Report as abusive

Wow ! What a magnificent tribute to our beautiful troops.Thank you for reminding me to shed a tear on this day .

Posted by LindainCt | Report as abusive

THIS STORY TELLS WHY WE “AMERICANS” ARE THE GREATEST PEOPLE AND NATION ON EARTH! WHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD DOES A STORY WITH PHOTOGRAPHS LIKE THESE EXIST. THE DIFFICULT PART ABOUT THIS STORY IS THESE BRAVE MEN AND WOMEN WERE NOT DOING THEIR DUTY DEFENDING OUR HOMELAND ON OUR SOIL, BUT IN A FOREIGN LAND ALSO DEFENDING OTHER HELPLESS SOULS.”GOD BLESS AMERICA”

Posted by JOHN F HORN | Report as abusive

WOW, I am always lost for words when I view these kinds of photo’s.. God Bless our Military men and woman and may GOD Bless America!

Posted by Jay Williams | Report as abusive

On this Veterans Day, may we always remember our fallen brother’s and sister’s in our US Military. Past, Present, Future brave men and women that have answered the call to fight for our FREEDOM, FREEDOM is not Free. We get our Freedom from GOD and our US Military men and women. Thank you my brother’s and sister’s for your Service and Sacrifice in defending this great land we call United States of America. You are AMERICA’s greatest HERO’s!! GOD Bless you all and may GOD continue to Bless America.

Posted by RJ Krick | Report as abusive

Thats the power of photography. Pictures that tell a story and stir your soul. Truly a beautiful piece of work and a reminder of the suffering of loved ones from all sides.

Posted by Eddie Keogh | Report as abusive

David,You say, “…How horrible to see pictures of women who’ve lost husbands and sons.What’s the goal of continuing this insanity?Why are we still there?”Allow me to point out that every one of those Iraqi veterans buried at Arlington volunteered for the job, died willingly, and believed in their mission and especially in their buddies. They died so you would retain the right to freely question their sacrifice, and because they didn’t want the sacrifice of those who died before them go unrewarded by a pull-out before the job was done. As a “former Marine” you would surely know this, which will leave some to question whether you ever were one. I thank you for YOUR service, even if you can’t bring yourself to thank them for theirs.

Posted by Thomas | Report as abusive

I am a daughter of a Army Mother. I am also the proud mother and mother in law of 2 soldiers serving in Iraq right now. What a beautiful tribute to all our soldiers past and present. GOD BLESS AMERICA and ALL OUR SOLDIERS!!!!

Posted by Leslie Carlsen Ga. | Report as abusive

“What nobler way for man to diethan facing fearful oddsfor the ashes of his fathersand the temple of his gods.”

Wow, what a wonderful tribute to those who gave all. As I sit here and read this, I weep, and thank God for those who see the importance of the sacrifice of the few, for the good of so many. For those of you that have suffered loss, I grieve, but am also grateful. If my son’s airforce career had taken him to combat, I would have been proud. I guess I am one of the lucky ones. He stayed home. Words never do justice. Thank you so much for writing this. Thank you so much for giving. We are forever in your debt.

Thank you for this moving tribute.

Posted by BOB | Report as abusive

my husband is a veteran from 1978 to 1982. the government has never done a thing for him. he has post dramic stress sydrome and jungle rot, shot in the leg after jumping off a huwey. almost lost his whole leg when he had a bomb land on his knee when he was a a o man loading a bomb on a jet with the uss enterprise, the leutitent told his guys that the bomb was secure and my husband’s side wasn’t. He gets no benifits for it. They got him coming in and not coming out so he gets no help. where do you turn when you do your time but noone is there but me when he talks vietimis. or he don’t like crowds. where is the physic to tell him he is alright. where is the navy now that he is out. I love the military. they keep me and my three sons safe and thank you but the government is not doing enough for the men of the old and those who are young to survive after putting their lives on the line. I worked for the navy for 15 years. I love the navy and all those who serve thankyou. I know for a fact that more than three quarters of the homeless are vets. what are they doing for them. they are homeless because those who are done doing there duty are forgotten. what about the wifes and mothers who have to put the men in there lives back together again. no where in the marriage certificate, even in the fine print does it say you are suppose to be a shrink. I have been married to my husband for 27 years. I will do what it takes to take care of him, but what about those women who can’t? They are forgotten too. The government needs to take care of the whole family. men and women and their kids. someone out there, I hope will start to here from the vet of the u.s.a. I hope that the vets from Irac and afgan are getting the help they need. At least they weren’t called baby killers. I hope noone thinks that I am ranting but someone or something can be done. thank-you for listening. THANK YOU FOR ALL THAT SERVE FOR OUR COUNTRY AND KEEP MY SONS SAFE. I DON’T CARE ABOUT ME, BUT I DO CARE ABOUT MY CHILDERN AND HOPEFULLY MY FUTURE GRANDCHILDERN. PLEASE BE SAFE. THANK YOU!!!!!!!TINA

Posted by tina sheeler | Report as abusive

May God Bless them all, what sacrifices they have made to keep this Great Country of ours safe. My thoughts and prayers go out to all they left behind.

Posted by Georgia Botsacos Litwin | Report as abusive

What words spoken or printed could possibly ease the losses to these dear families? I would bet none.Days of rememberance and thanks are few except for those who have suffered the personal loss. Let us take this moment to simply thank those remembered and those left behind to carry on.THANK YOU.We can go back tomorrow to enjoy another day of political bickering.

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive

Wow…..thank you.

Posted by Paul | Report as abusive

Tina, My heart goes out to you!I agree with all, that this is a Beautiful tribute to all Veterans! My husband served in VietNam…he passed away in 2007 and I still cry so hard…I cried so hard today especially…so proud of the way he protected his fellow man…the cause of death was not directly related, so they say…but the stress that he dealt with all those years, I find it hard to believe that it was not!Tina……fight…fight….fight…there has to be some help out there for you!I know easy to say…the Government is not there for their Vets!!!!!….use them and cast them aside…I went through some issues and I could go on forever…and trying not to, but it is not easy!Why do we pay out billions for people to come in our country….give them cars…houses…food…and they refuse to fly our flag or speak English?!…and they have never served one day protecting our country…I do not understand!I vote that every alien that comes in, should serve in the military for 4 years…and also the thousands of prisoners that we are paying the upkeep for…with descrection of the type of crime…..might keep crime down somewhat with that type of penalty…:)Tina…again…my prayers are with you and your family!I am so proud of Your Husband!!! and of you!!!Give him a Big Hug from me and the Nation!…tell him just because he is not getting the support from the Government…the Nation is supporting him and that is the “people”!…We are Very Proud! :)

Posted by Louise | Report as abusive

As I shed my tears.I say thank you Reuters for a most eloquent and moving testimony.I served but the Lord spared me. A beautiful tribute!

Sir-Thank you for capturing such powerful images and sharing them with the world.Your story and photos really made me stop and think of how fortunate I am for all of the men and women who have served our country when our country needed them the most.I hope that our nation will continue to pray for those who are serving right now, deployed around the world and for the family and friends they left behind.May we never, ever forget those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, those who are recovering from injuries they received and those who have served and continue to serve.Thank you for your service and may God bless you and keep you safe.

Posted by ENS H.N.G., USN | Report as abusive

Is there any need to fight wars in different countries? ask any sane person, all will say”FIRST PROTECT YOUR OWN COUNTRY BORDERS AND AIRSPACE.” that’s itWhy going to other countries and spreading democracy their. Just mind ur own business and defend your own borders and drill oil from Alaska for which thousands of Americans have died and still dying.Americans are not the bravest BUT the cowards who don’t who know how to kill innocent women and children by dropping bombs from the sky starting from Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Iraq… But one day somebody will teach America a lesson which it will NEVERRRR forget.

Posted by Abraham | Report as abusive

Amazing tribute to our veterans.While we remember and honor all those who put their lives at stake, so that we can sleep soundly, let us not forgot the thousands of “nameless” civilians, whose only fault was being present at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Posted by Nick | Report as abusive

I just made my 3 children, two boys 16 and 14, and my eleven year old daughter put down their ipods, video games, etc. and come into my home office and stand around my computer while I read this beautiful article out loud to them and showed them the pictures. My sons’ idea of war is playing “Call of Duty” on their Xbox and watching war movies on TV. They have no clue. They complained about having to sit through my read of this article but I do hope they got something out of it. I cried early this morning when I first read this before going to work and I barely made it through this read again tonight with them. Thank you Reuters and the author of this piece for a beautiful tribute.

Posted by Ann Bowlby Galindo | Report as abusive

A fine, moving example of proof that freedom is NOT free, it comes with a great and powerful commitment and cost. To all those who serve, and have served, thank you. To the families and loved ones of those who have paid the ultimate price, I have been there and know you’re pain. I will keep you in my prayers.

Posted by Gentlehawk | Report as abusive

Wow! What an emotional ride you have taken me on. I want to thank those brave heroes of our military’s past and present. I want to wish blessings on those who fought, those who are fighting, and those that will fight for this great country, sacrificing for this great land. I also wish special blessings on the families of these brave men and women. They too sacrifice for this great land. May God Bless you all and may God Bless the United States of America.

Posted by Dale Lindley | Report as abusive

Wonderful touching article and photos that show how considerate and thoughtful you are and have always been since I’ve known you. darryl

Posted by darryl heikes | Report as abusive

Thoughtful and touching and it shows the kind of person you have always been. darryl

Posted by darryl heikes | Report as abusive

Very emotional; I defy any true American to go through this program and not shed a tear. I have served in Korea (’51-’52) and Vietnam. We have to honor and love those who now volunteer to serve this country and to give that last measure of devotion to ensure we are safe. God bless those who have served and given, and give strength to those who were left behind.

Posted by Maj James Murphy USMC (Ret) | Report as abusive

What a fitting tribute to our brave young men and women who gave their lives so that we can enjoy FREEDOM.This was very emotional for me, my prayers and thoughts will ALWAYS be with those families.GOD BLESS THEM ALL, AND GOD BLESS AMERICA …………..

Posted by LINDA M. CAMMACK | Report as abusive

Although, a Canuck, I shed tears over the lost lives and potential of each person and for the families of those buried in unknown places as well as in Arlington. War is hell, a necessary evil. To our brothers in the US, I say fight until the battle is done. To the families, “you are the backbone of this battle, stay strong”. Bless all of you.

Posted by ravenwing | Report as abusive

Powerful and dignified tribute in words and images to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for this nation. Thank you for sharing this with me and the world. You’ve always been a tremendous inspiration, wonderful colleague and I’m proud to count you as a friend. Thank you!

Posted by Gregg Newton | Report as abusive

Dear Larry,Excellent!Your dedication to photojournalism and professionalism remind all of us why we are in the business of visual storytelling.Thank you for sharing your work done beyond your call of duty. With much admiration and respect.Hyungwon

Posted by Hyungwon Kang | Report as abusive

Thank you America for my freedom. Twenty years ago you rescued me from the Communist prison. Forty years fighting and dying for me best thy sons. Everywhere where the evil of communism sought path. Finally, the evil empire collapsed. Because this American soldier never gave up. Even in Korea or Vietnam or the Cold War. Never forget. With profound respect. Miroslav Vaclavek, Czech republic, Europe

Very moving. Arlington is a special place. I have been to Section 60 several times. It’s heart renching. I have visited there with family members of the fallen. That is really hard. You just don’t know what to say. I do know what to say today. Always remember these brave men and women and their families. Freedom is not free. God Bless you all!

Posted by Dennis Ulmer | Report as abusive

What a moving tribute to those who have served and died protecting our freedom. I had to pause as the tears flowed and regain my composure to finish reading the captions for all the pictures. Thank you to all Veterans each of whom have given their best to keep our country the “Land of the Free” because of their bravery and dedication.

Posted by RSiverd | Report as abusive

As a retired AF orthopaedic surgeon formerly deployed to Balad, Iraq, the AF’s largest theater hospital since Viet Nam, I was moved and touched by your documentary and pictorial message. I hope we never forget.

Posted by John V. Ingari | Report as abusive

Hello. This is a moving article and a wonderful tribute. The photos and the stories are true to life. Thank you for sharing.

Larry,I found this very emotional! Thank you for your continued dedication and hard work. Your superb photographic skill accurately documents the price our service members are prepared to pay on our behalf.Again, thank you! It was my pleasure to serve with you.Ed Cole

Posted by Edward Cole | Report as abusive

Thank you for sharing these stories with us a very moving article…I am a proud military wife and I give thanks everyday for what our soldiers risk for our freedom…I will keep you all in my prayers

Posted by Marisa | Report as abusive

Well done, Dog! Your photos always inspire me.

Posted by Yan Zhang | Report as abusive

I served with the 5th RCT in Korea from August 1950-January 1951. I will shortly in February 2010, be 78 years old and you brought tears to my eyes and a long absent pain to my heart to view these pictures that were thoughtfully sent to me by my brother.

This is a truly moving tribute to our young men and women who gave their all for those of us left behind. As an orthopaedic surgeon who cared for Vietnam wounded in Japan and now participate in the care of our wounded warriors from the Middle East, I see at first hand the horrific sacrifices these young people make and I cry for them and for their loved ones.

Posted by George Bogumill | Report as abusive

Here at the computer with 2 of my three Iraqi veterans asleep in the house and the other with his family in Tallahassee, I as a Navy Vietnam-era retiree feel fortunate to not have had to endure the pain of any Section 60 visits. However, the days and nights of worry and the tears shed waiting through those family times when they were “over there” was pain enough for me. I salute these fallen heroes and their families for one of mine might have to return to the conflict. May God strengthen you and me to endure.

Posted by Darryl Stewart | Report as abusive

Great photos. Moving.

Posted by KevinApper | Report as abusive

[...] Day — also known as Armistice Day — commemorations Nov. 11, so we missed this moving photo essay by Reuters photographer Larry Downing. His blog posting, which recently came to our attention, is [...]

Larry, wonderful piece on an incredibly hard subject matter. Thank you so much for taking the time to putting words to your images. Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Posted by PabloMM | Report as abusive

Our son is in Section 60. Lance Corp. Patrick Ryan Adle. We lost Patrick 6/29/04 in Irag by an IED. We miss him evert day. We can only thank the men and women of Arlington for taking care of our loved ones. It is an honor for our son and our family to have Patrick buried in Arlington. We miss him everyday.

His mother: Pamela Adle-Watts
His step-father: J. Michael Watts

Posted by LukeBear | Report as abusive

Larry:

What a powerful and moving tribute to those who served and gave the ultimate sacrifice.

And what testimony to your skill as a storyteller!

You always have been a true professional… able to evoke the deepest of emotions, through your work.

You remind us, vividly, of the cost of freedom.

Amazing gift you have. I’m glad and proud to call you a friend.

Art Insana

Posted by WritemanNJ | Report as abusive

My brother, Sgt. Nickolas Mueller, was buried in Section 60 after being killed in Afganistan on Oct. 26, 2009. Having my brother buried in Arlington was very humbling. He and his brothers and sisters that laid their lives down during this war and every other war are truly heros. Knowing that so many people will walk by my brother everyday makes me feel a little bit better about my brother being so far away from home.
God bless the men and women in arms who serve this county every day, and keep us free. And God Bless those men and women who have served.
Nick, we miss you and think of you every day.

NSDQ

Posted by johnmueller | Report as abusive

I was 35 minutes late to a dinner party tonight. I’m usually horribly anxious if I’m not on schedule, but this is one time that I didn’t feel the slightest twinge of anxiety. I was riveted motionless by your work. You and Angelica have truly captured the pride and the devastating sadness that war brings. Your work is beautiful and haunting. Deeply moving, Larry.

Rose

Posted by Rose321 | Report as abusive

Being the son of a decorated Navy pilot, father of a Marine and a Army Veteran, I can only say thank you for showing the realistic, yet personal side if war. My heart goes out to those who have lost loved one’s and my chest swells with pride for those brave men and women who serve our country past and present.

DML

Posted by DML | Report as abusive

Our son SGT Nickolas A. Mueller now rest in section 60. Nick and nine others died when their helicopter crashed in Afganistan, October 26th, 2009. GOD BLESS THEM ALL!
We pray for and support our military every day. Without them over there, they would be over here.
A Poem written by Jean Pomeroy that I enjoy very much…

Always
Think of me and I am with you,
Living in a different way,
Never really gone completely,
Close in spirit day by day.

Touch me in your deepest memory,
Know that I am always there.
In your heart you’ll find me waiting,
Speak to me in gentle prayer.

Watch for at every sunrise,
See me in the star-lit sky.
Feel my love, it’s with you always.
Love eternal, you and I.

Nick, We Love you, We Miss you. GOD

Posted by ndsq | Report as abusive

GOD BLESS YOU NICK,
NSDQ…
LOVE, Mom and Dad

Posted by ndsq | Report as abusive

[...] first visited Arlington National Cemetery together last Memorial Day. As they walked around Section 60, they saw Laura Youngblood place flowers on the gravestone of Petty Officer Third Class Travis L. [...]

Its nice to know my dad has such good company; sad but good.

Posted by USAF-SAC | Report as abusive

[...] to work. so if you hate me because im a boomer i can live with it current generation of hereos section 60 __________________ [...]

[...] works were produced by Reuters staff: Larry Downing’s incredibly moving photo essay on Arlington Cemetery’s Section 60, the multimedia-rich and collaborative Thomson Reuters focus project exploring high frequency [...]

I visited Arlington on 11 September 2010 just before the USNA/Georgia Southern game. Really hot day, beautiful sunshine. As I walked around Arlington, I was struck by the beauty of it but it’s hard to get the reason for its existence out of one’s head…

… this story brings it all back. It’s really tough to type comments with a lump in one’s throat and cloudy vision. I’m Canadian but revere Arlington with a passion to rival most Americans.

Posted by GoMiddies | Report as abusive

Now they have taken away the right of family members to leave a special token at the grave site of a loved one.

How sad.

Posted by 300 | Report as abusive