Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibility
Close Alert

7Salutes: Arlington Ladies ensure no US Air Force member is buried alone

Arlington Ladies (7News)
Arlington Ladies (7News)
Facebook Share IconTwitter Share IconEmail Share Icon

On November 8, 1984, the U.S. Air Force brought together a group of volunteers to attend every single funeral at Arlington National Cemetery.

Now, 75 years later, each branch of the military has what are called “Arlington Ladies” who have a solemn duty to make sure no military member is buried alone.

It is a heavy burden to attend one or two funerals in a lifetime, but Camila Cheater and Christina Mavity, at Arlington National Cemetery, attend three funerals every single day, five days a week.

"Usually, when the volley of fire started, that’s when I began to pray that my words are a blessing and a comfort,” Cheater told 7News.

Mavity and Cheater are Arlington Ladies for the United States Air Force. They are two of about 140 volunteers within each branch of the military.

“We are taught that we’re not there to mourn, we are there to remember, honor and respect the memory of their loved one, and I hope that my words convey that their loved one will always be remembered and honored here at Arlington,” Cheater said.

“We’re attending the last formal military service or ceremony for a veteran being interred and honored,” Mavity added. “So, we represent not just ourselves, but we represent the Air Force family.”

Both women have strong military ties. Cheater’s father was in the Navy and her husband, Major General Julian Cheater, is still on active duty.

“I think that we all as military spouses are always looking for a unique and memorable way to serve our greater Air Force family at large and this was just a way for me to do that,” Cheater said.

Mavity’s grandfather, father, husband and now her son have all served their country.

“My husband thinks this is probably the most honorable volunteer thing that I’ve done so far,” Mavity said. “Our son values this because, unfortunately, he’s had friends who have been buried here and he’s only in his 30s.”

At each funeral, the Arlington Ladies research the veteran being laid to rest, they write a letter to the family members and kneel in front of them at the funeral service to present their note.

Mavity said this is often personal.

“I’ve had to do a service for friends,” Mavity said. “That’s tough because there is for sure a personal connection there. It’s hard to pull it together mostly because you know the family, you know the children. You know the history.”

Occasionally they attend a service where no family members are present.

“We are here to ensure that no airman or guardian is buried alone,” said Cheater. “It is a solemn responsibility that none of our Arlington Ladies or Gentlemen take lightly.”

Mavity keeps a journal with the name from each funeral she attends.

“It’s so I don’t forget,” she said. “By keeping it, I keep the memories of the people that we serve alive. Just reading through their names once a year, I think it's tremendous.”

“it’s a privilege to be there to witness our nation’s flag being given in honor of our servicemen and women,” Cheater said.

The volunteers are almost all women, but the Air Force does have one Arlington Gentleman who is a gold star dad, meaning his child was killed in action.

For the Air Force alone, they attend on average 850 funerals per year.

Loading ...