ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY in Washington, D.C. encompasses 624 acres overlooking the Potomac River. Though it may appear to be a field of stone, it is a peaceful place where generations of war heroes, veterans, freed slaves, and others who have sacrificed for this country’s freedom are laid to rest.

This cemetery is our nation’s most sacred shrine. The Third United States Infantry Regiment, known as the “Old Guard,” is the oldest active duty infantry regiment in the army, dating back to 1774. It is the official escort to our president in inaugural parades, and in ceremonies for the White House and Pentagon. It provides color guards and drill teams for events around the capital and, above all, services for military funerals at the cemetery.

Our family was present for the burial of my oldest brother, Command Sergeant Major Lawrence Dahle, whose ashes were laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019.

The ceremony of full honors may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us, but it will be remembered as long as I live.

Following the ceremony that took place early that morning, I asked some of the 50 family members assembled for one word that would describe the ceremony. The words solemn, respect, reverent, efficient, simple, profound, emotional, amazing, patriotic, honored, hallowed, unique, sacrifice, reverence and deserving were mentioned.

A caisson carrying the body (ashes), the riderless horse, the band playing three hymns, and a 21-gun salute celebrated the life of my brother who served 32 years in the U.S. Army.  His service began with the Berlin airlift, followed by Korea, two tours of duty in Vietnam, and teaching at West Point Military Academy.

Larry received numerous awards including the Silver Star, the Bronze Star Medal with the letter “V”, the Bronze Star Medal with two bronze oak leaf clusters, and the Purple Heart.

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Gene Johnson is publisher emeritus of Press Publications

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