During a recent Army funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, a woman escorted by a member of the Army's 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard), stood silently near the gravesite.
Not related to the Soldier being interred that day, she is one of about 65 women, known as the Arlington Ladies, who volunteer to attend Army funerals held at the nation's most hallowed cemetery. So every time a Soldier is buried there, an Arlington Lady is present.
They attend funerals in the heat, in the snow and in the rain. They are present for the burial of the youngest Soldier who was killed during his first tour in Iraq and for the World War II-era Soldier who spent his last years in the Old Soldiers Home in Washington, D.C.
The Arlington Ladies stand a silent vigil at funerals attended by dozens of mourners and at funerals where a Soldier has no next of kin - no friends present to render a final salute. In fact, that is the very reason they attend funerals.
Since 1973, the Arlington Ladies have ensured that no Soldier - old or young - is ever buried alone.
The Arlington Ladies serve, they say, because it is an honor for them to let families know the Army has not forgotten the service their loved one gave to the United States. And their service, like that of the Soldiers they honor, is representative of the Army's value of selfless service.