The Soldiers Who Didn’t Make It Back

Marine Lance Cpl. Travis Williams was the only member of his squad to survive an explosion by a roadside bomb. He movingly tells the story of the attack and aftermath:

Robert M. Poole reflects on Arlington’s Section 60:

As the last combat troops leave Afghanistan and new fighting spreads over Syria and Iraq, Section 60 is nearing capacity—a testament to the human cost of America’s longest war, a conflict largely hidden from ordinary life in America. “This is one of the few places you’d know we’ve had a war going on,” retired Navy Commander Kirk S. Lippold, skipper of the U.S.S. Cole, said last year, standing near the center of Section 60. He had come to pay his respects to three shipmates—Technician Second Class Kenneth Eugene Clodfelter, Chief Petty Officer Richard Dean Costlow and Seaman Cherone Louis Gunn—now lying side by side beneath neat white tombstones.

The trio of sailors, among 17 killed when Al Qaeda suicide bombers attacked the Cole in Yemen in 2000, were among the earliest casualties in the long war that in fact began months before the phrase “9/11” entered Americans’ vocabulary. “Their deaths were prelude to everything that’s happened in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Lippold, who regularly visits this part of the national cemetery, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

In the years since the Cole bombing, Section 60 has been filling up row by row. It is the busiest part of the cemetery, with the crack of rifle salutes and the silvery notes of Taps announcing the arrival of new conscripts with depressing frequency. The whole history of our recent wars can be traced among the closely packed tombstones, which mark the graves of soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen who earned a berth in the national cemetery by volunteering, suiting up and paying the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan, Iraq and other battlegrounds of the war on terror.

Sallie Lewis notes that Arlington is being expanded to make room:

Around thirty funeral services take place at Arlington National Cemetery every day. Saturdays are thankfully slower, when there’s typically only six to eight. As the large number of regular burials continues to consume space at Arlington, the question of future availability looms. The Millennium Project attempts to address this by adding twenty-seven additional acres to the northern edge of the cemetery, along with 30,000 new burial sites. The first interment there is expected to occur in the summer of 2019.