Angels at Arlington

Air Force “Arlington Committee” celebrates 75 years of service.


Entering the gates of the iconic 639-acre landmark is unforgettable. Steeped with history and tradition, Arlington National Cemetery honors those who served in the U.S. armed forces. The bucolic military cemetery is the final resting place for more than 400,000 service members and their families.

Among the pageantry of the military funeral ceremonies stands the Air Force’s Arlington Committee, a humble group of unsung patriots who remain in the background at funerals, but hold a vital role. 

75-Year Anniversary

Since 1948, an Arlington Committee member has attended every Air Force funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, ensuring that no airman is buried alone. 

“For 75 years, we’ve lent our presence to solemn moments at Arlington and our primary mission is to ensure no airman or guardian is laid to rest without the dignity and honor that they deserve,” says Camila “Cammy” Cheater, co-chair of the Air Force’s Arlington Committee. 

Attending every funeral at Arlington can be daunting. Across all armed forces branches, the cemetery conducts between 27 and 30 funerals each weekday and between six and eight services on Saturday. The Army shoulders the majority of funeral ceremonies, but members from the Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard also are laid to rest at the cemetery. 

“All our Arlington ladies and gentlemen are driven by a deep sense of duty and profound desire to honor those sacrifices that our veterans make,” Cheater says. Air Force funerals are generally held four days a week at Arlington—one volunteer is scheduled for each half-day shift, attending three funerals per shift.

“We will never, ever bury an airman alone,” says Christina Mavity, Air Force Arlington Committee co-chair, which used to be called the Arlington Ladies, before gentlemen were included. “It’s been a mission for almost 75 years, and I’m not going to be the one to break this chain.”

Humble Beginnings

The Arlington Ladies’ work began in 1948 when Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg, chief of staff of the Air Force, and his wife, Gladys, were driving by the cemetery and noticed that some funeral ceremonies had no one but a military chaplain present. Mrs. Vandenberg recruited her friends to attend funerals, and the Arlington Ladies began. Though the mission of the Arlington Ladies started with the Air Force, the Army, Navy and Coast Guard soon founded their own branches. Marines send a representative of the Marine Commandant to Marine Corps funerals.

“The Air Force Arlington Ladies, through their dedication and kindness, ensure that friends and loved ones at Arlington services know they are part of our Air Force family,” says Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. David W. Allvin. “They stand as a symbol of our gratitude and a beacon of faithfulness. We are grateful for their personal commitment and unwavering support at each and every service.”

Committee Requirements

Arlington Committee volunteers are spouses of active or retired Air Force members. At each funeral, they present two cards to the next of kin. One card is a standard note of condolence from the Air Force Chief of Staff and his staff, and the other is a personal, handwritten note, expressing thanks for their loved ones’ military service.

“We make sure that they understand that when they entrust their loved one to Arlington,” Mavity says, “that loved one will always be cared for, always remembered, and always honored.”

Photo by Elizabeth Fraser
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