By Craig Wilson
November 11, 2009
ARLINGTON, Va. — It has been called the “saddest acre in America.” The graves here in Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery are fresh, many decorated with autumnal mums and pumpkins.
Family and friends wander among the clean white headstones, often sitting down in the new grass to spend time with loved ones killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Robert Poole has seen the tableau played out dozens of times. As author of the new book On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery (Walker, 352 pp., $28), published in time for Veterans Day, Poole spent the past few years wandering Arlington’s 624 acres, from Section 60′s new graves in the cemetery’s flat and remote south end, to the first military grave (year: 1864), perched on a hillside to the far north.
“It’s easy to get lost here,” says Poole, 60, a former executive editor at National Geographic. “There are all kinds of nooks and crannies. But I just wandered. I did a lot of that. You get your best stuff that way.”