Monday, May 26, 2008

Where My Dad Is Buried

This is what used to be called The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is now just known as The Tomb of a Soldier. It's at Arlington Cemetery in Washington D.C. and it's where my Dad is buried, under one of those ubiquitous white markers that have come to be associated with Arlington.
Dad didn't want to be buried there even though his grade of Colonel allowed him that honor. Sadly, Arlington is so crowded from recent wars that now only old warhorses like my dad, who have senior grades, can be put to rest here. Arlington is normally reserved for those who gave their lives for our country and knowing my Dad, he probably didn't think he deserved that honor since he made it through WWII. My sister and I knew he didn't want to be buried there so we waited. Dad's ashes sat in an urn on my sister's balcony overlooking the Santa Monica Mountains while we tried to decide where to bury him. People thought we were crazy. Years went by.

What we didn't know was that Dad bought four plots in Freeport, Illinois, at Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens. One for himself and one for his third wife and two for his children. His estate took me three years to go through and somewhere in the middle of that time, I discovered the deeds. Seems like a pretty big secret to carry with you but that was my Dad. He should have been named Harlan Taciturn, because he rarely spoke. So his third wife is buried there and the fourth wife is buried up in New York State. My sister and I are left with three empty plots. We found an online broker to try and sell them but so far haven't had any luck. I don't know, maybe Freeport is a charmed little town and no one dies there. Wouldn't that be nice?
But eventually we decided to go against his wishes and apply to Arlington and Dad was accepted. It works that way, unless of course you're KIA. He worked hard all his life and gave a lot to the Army so we wanted him, a man who only finished high school and then had to work to support his family instead of go to college, we wanted him to have something that we feel he would have been proud of. Even in death.

My sister and I have never seen his grave.

End of chat.


  1. Suzy,
    What a touching post. Don't make me cryyyyyyy. Mah mascara's gonna get all streaky.
    Seriously, though, I think that it's lovely that you did that.
    Hope somebody brings over some yummy food for you tonight!

  2. Great post...walking through Arlington is definitely an emotional experience.

  3. Here via Humor Blogs: WTF? You posted your Dad's burial at humor blogs?

  4. Oh, Just read your About... I'm a sucker.

  5. Not to go all schmaltzy or anything, but re: "...we wanted him to have something that we feel he would have been proud of."

    He had you.

    Shade and Sweetwater,
    K (yeah, yeah, you can smack me around as soon as you can find me and chase my plus-sized ass down)

    PS - Thanks for serving, Suzy's dad.

  6. kimber, I made myself cry.

    alice, we only saw where JFK was buried. That's pretty sad.

    going like 60, gonna let you slide this time pal cuz you're new here. But generally? I make everyone's life a living sarcastic hell around here and for ONCE (maybe more than once) I just wanted to honor Memorial Day.

    k, very sweet of you to say that. Truly. My dad was always proud of me for entertaining the troops.

  7. I don't even know how to take this after reading all the comments. So I'm just going to say thanks to your day for serving our country.

  8. Damn, I really don't like getting teary eyed. I didn't know they changed the name of the tomb. I saw it when I was just a kid but it still gave me a deep sad feeling back then.
    Nice post about your dad, I think you did the right thing.

  9. Arlington is an amazing place. When we lived in Europe I went to the cemetery at Normandy and ended up crying.

  10. I just blogged about being in Arlington in April and memories of my dad.
    He told us not to have a military funeral, but we had the flag ceremony.

  11. Pomnot9:11 PM

    We were in a traffic jam today on the way to National (or is it Reagan) Airport to pick up son and girlfriend coming from Fla. - there was a huge traffic jam due to the ceremony at Arlington - I was thinking about other sons at Arlington . . .

  12. You did a good thing. And I'm with Kyddryn... he had you. Thanks for honoring your dad, and all the many others who also served.

  13. Surcie7:20 AM

    Even though it sounds like your dad didn't deserve the effort, that was a truly loving thing to do. It's an amazing place. My husband did several funerals there.

  14. We went to Arlington some years back. I cried. Then we went to the Vietnam Memorial. I really cried. It was so emotionally overwhelming for me that it literally took me hours to stop crying. I have no plans to ever go back to DC again.

    My Dad is in a Barnes and Noble bag in my closet. Well, his ashes are. He's been there for 6 years now, as his 4 kids periodically try to decide what to do with him. Our last solution was to split him up into 4 parts and each of us do with him what we think appropriate. Because he was a pilot for most of his life (got his license at 16) and loved everything about flying, I want to scatter his ashes into the wind at Kitty Hawk. The other kids have other ideas.

    Thank you, Daddy, and thank you, too, Suzy's Dad.

  15. Anonymous11:10 AM

    Thank you Suzy's Dad.


  16. Beautiful. I think y'all did the right thing. Really nice story. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Very touching. You remind me of my niece; she's a much better person than I would've expected given her upbringing. Your dad was probably like most men, in that he was much prouder of you and loved you much more than he was able to express.

    If it's not too late to be topical...and if I'm not pushing it too much with the "hey, y'all, look at MY blog"'s a quick look at my great uncle who didn't quite make it to the show on time for WWII, at least not as much as he probably would've chosen.