The Homecoming

Other tombstones speak for the Revolutionary War soldier who died at the hands of a mob while defending the First Amendment; of one- armed John Wesley Powell, explorer of the Colorado River; of one- legged Daniel Sickles, Civil War general, ambassador, congressman, scoundrel. Famous generals from Fort Myer— among them John J. Pershing, George C. Marshall, and Omar Bradley— walked among these tombstones in life, a sobering exercise even for non- generals, and returned to lie among them in death, surrounded by the men they sent into battle. Less prominent are the inhabitants of Arlington’s Section 27, where a sea of weathered stones preserves the memory of slaves and freedmen named George Washington, Robert Lee, Bertsey Murray, Selina Brown, Moses Jackson, and thousands of others, segregated in death as they had been in life. Like all of the dead at Arlington, they have stories to tell if you will listen.

New chapters are added daily, as new tombstones appear, twenty- five or so per day, five days a week, all year long. They continue the narrative of war, loss, growth, and remembering, which began long before there was any honor attached to burial at Arlington. That was when a promising colonel named Robert E. Lee lived in its cream-colored mansion, surrounded by a contingent of slaves and 1,100 acres of choice plantation land. If not for him, there would have been no Arlington National Cemetery.

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