Monday, December 28, 2009

His Wife

I think I've just figured it out.
Of course, I could have answered the question meerly by going into the visitor's center, but at the time it only seemed like a minor curiosity. Then it turned into an annoyance, and led to a certain amount of indignation, but by then I was far away from the visitor's center, in a different country even. So I continued to stew, until I found one of those 'well of course' answers.
In the National Cemetery featured in my last post, members of the military have their name, grade, dates and sometimes posts engraved on the headstone.
Then there are whole sections where the headstones have dates, but no names. This is not a place for the fallen whose remains could not be identified with certainty. They're marked "His Wife" or "His Daughter". I suppose there must be "Her Husband" as well, though I didn't see one.
It's not possible to know who's wife or daughter. There's no name on the stone at all, either his or hers. There's no grave nearby that the nameless woman is associated with. If you go there looking for your Aunt Mathilda, you just have to know where she is.
I thought it was awful, to be stripped of all identity like that. "His Wife". Not only does the woman not deserve a name, but not even her husband's name is there. Mrs Jones taken an appalling step too far. These names were not lost, they were deliberately deleted. Reduced in death to an appendage of an anonymous "Him".
But then it is a military cemetery. Women from the services have fully informed headstones. Spouses and offspring who were not members of the military, however, don't receive the same level of recognition as those who were. It makes perfect sense from that perspective. You might debate whether spouses and children have their place in the National Cemetery at all, and I guess this is the compromise. There are no family groupings, no names for non-servicepeople, but they're there within the gates.


Bagman and Butler said...

This doesn't seem right, somehow. It bothered me too.

NanU said...

I'm not sure it is the best way. Perhaps an identifiable separate section, where it is clear that they are there as family members, but with respect for their names, would be more satisfactory.

Rachel Cotterill said...

Are military personnel automatically buried in the National Cemetery? What I mean is, is it an option to have a 'normal' burial (or cremation) with a headstone somewhere else, with your family? It seems a shame not to have names.

Argent said...

Alternatively, could they not put some kind of link on the headstone, identifying the grave of the serviceman/woman to whome this family member belongs? then you could at least track it back to them and see whose wife/daughter, etc.

NanU said...

I'm not any kind of expert in this, but I know that servicepeople have the option of being buried elsewhere, with their family, or to make whatever alternate plans they want. And I'm sure that they keep records of who is where, so if you were to go to the visitor's center looking for a specific person they'll point out just the spot. And every headstone has a code on the back, so if you want to go the other way and know who is at #2374 they can tell you that too.

Personally, I would just add the names. Lieutenant John Simons, 1st Infantry" and "Jane Simons, his wife" would still respect the idea that the National Cemetery is a place of special recognition for John, without denying Jane's humanity. And naturally, Jane has the option of not being buried there. She can't be next to her husband anyway, because they don't leave spaces for future additions.

Ronda Laveen said...

It somehow seems wrong that by showing such respect for the military show disrespect for others.