An honorable survey of Arlington National Cemetery’s subdivision for military personnel killed in the global war on terror.
Former National Geographic executive editor Poole (On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery, 2009) explores Section 60, in the southeast corner of the much-respected burial ground, which is now home to more than 900 deceased American soldiers. From this most active area of Arlington National, he reports the riveting and powerful stories of family members and comrades in heart-rending prose. They include Army Capt. Russell Rippetoe, who was the first fatality to be memorialized from Operation Iraqi Freedom; an eternally grateful heart transplant recipient who religiously visits the grave of her benefactor; a family robbed of a loved one’s final viewing due to catastrophic injuries from IEDs; and an inconsolable mother grieving her beloved son. Poole contrasts the palpable frustration and pain of parents burying a child who perished from fratricide or those captured or missing in action with the somber splendor of an Arlington funeral, noting that not all of Section 60’s space belongs to those fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan, with over half of the allotted space belonging to veterans who fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. As these older graves join with those of more youthful soldiers, the author admits that “they have changed the look and feel of the cemetery,” with one visitor dramatically comparing the area to a contemporary memorialization much “like the Vietnam Wall was for their generation.” Poole salutes these sobering profiles nobly, with pages of photographs, interviews and personal reflections bringing the human toll of war into vivid and sorrowful focus. The author, who admits to “wandering among the tombstones in Section 60 for several years,” imparts a great deal of heartfelt emotion and respect to his tribute of this hallowed ground, observing, “this postage stamp of earth represents something much larger.”
A momentous and moving follow-up to On Hallowed Ground.