May 25, 2009

Section 60

ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 26:  Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen (L) speaks with U.S. Marines in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery May 26, 2008 in Arlington, Virginia.  Section 60 is where many of those who have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been buried. Memorial Day, a federal holiday in the US, commemorates members of America's military that died while in service to their country. First enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War, it was expanded after World War I to include casualties of any war or military action.  (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

Quite an image on the newswire today (although captured a year ago, Memorial Day). It’s set in Section 60 where most of the Iraq and Afghanistan war vets are buried.

I don’t mean to emphasize the power differential, but it’s as if we were looking at two different pictures, if not many more. On the left is Joint Chiefs Chairman Mullen standing with a group of Marines in military dress while an airman, I believe, sits with family or friends (or friend’s family) around a grave marker, as if at a picnic or the beach with a comrade and son/brother/father (or daughter/sister/mother) who died.

To me, it’s a very evocative and humbling photo, offering much: All equal in death. The  military culture as achingly distinct from civilian life. The speechlessness and even mundane quality of surviving a loved one. And then, noting the people in the background at other gravestones, there is a profound sense of anonymity here, as well.

(image: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images. Arlington National Cemetery May 26, 2008. Arlington, Virginia.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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