AUTHORS

Author: Contract Historian
39 found

Bagpiper for the Wild Blue Yonder

By Kevin M. Hymel, Historian on 8/9/2022

On June 17, 2022, as Air Force Col. Charles McGee’s funeral at Arlington National Cemetery came to an end, the sound of bagpipes filled the air. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adam Tianello, dressed in a unique uniform which included an Air Force tartan kilt, played “Amazing Grace” for the mourners, providing a poignant conclusion to the ceremony.

By the time Tianello, The U.S. Air Force Band’s only bagpiper, blew into his bagpipes to end the McGee funeral, he had already performed at about 1,575 funerals. He only plays for funerals for Air Force colonels and above (per U.S. Air Force regulation). “I will play any tune the family will want to hear,” said Tianello. Yet he does not play for the departed. “I play for the people that are there, to help them with the grieving process.”

Contract Historian
Kevin M. Hymel

Navy Spouse Funeral at the Columbarium

By Kevin M. Hymel, Historian on 8/5/2022

On July 28, 2022, the inurned remains of Helen Zmuda joined those of her husband, Robert Zmuda, in the Arlington National Cemetery columbarium. The couple had been married for more than fifty years when Robert passed away in 2012. Helen’s extended family attended the funeral and bade farewell to their matriarch.

Contract Historian
Kevin M. Hymel

WWII Veteran Killed in Burma Buried at ANC

By Kevin M. Hymel, Historian on 8/2/2022

Brothers Peter and Robert Esmay never knew their uncles Myles and Gardner Esmay, both of whom died in service to their country during World War II. Myles Esmay died fighting with the U.S. Army to capture the town of Myitkyina in Burma on June 7, 1944. Almost a year later, Gardner Esmay died aboard the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill when two suicide kamikaze aircraft struck on May 11, 1945. Their brother Irwin Esmay, who witnessed the attack on the Bunker Hill as a sailor on another ship, survived the war and returned home to father five children, two of whom were Peter and Robert.

Contract Historian
Kevin M. Hymel

Air Force Chaplain Retires After More Than 2,000 Funerals at ANC

By Kevin M. Hymel, Historian on 7/26/2022

On Monday, July 18, 2022, after conducting more than 2,000 funerals over an eight-year span at Arlington National Cemetery, Chaplain (Col.) John L. Elliott, Jr. performed his last funeral as a uniformed Air Force officer. As a Reserve officer, he supported more funerals than active-duty Air Force chaplains serving a two- or three-year tour.

Elliott has also used his yearly ten months of active duty to conduct funerals, when he was technically attached to the Air Force District of Washington and the Pentagon. With so much experience, the Air Force often gave him a heavy work load. He once performed fifteen funerals in one week.

Contract Historian
Kevin M. Hymel

USS Oklahoma Pharmacist’s Mate Buried at ANC

By Kevin M. Hymel, Historian on 7/22/2022

Cheshire funeral

On November 9, 1941, 40-year-old James Thomas Cheshire, a chief pharmacist’s mate aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma, wrote a last letter to his son, but he did not know it. Less than a month later, the USS Oklahoma capsized after multiple Japanese torpedoes struck her hull, entrapping and killing 429 crewmen, including Cheshire.

Contract Historian
Kevin M. Hymel

One of the Last Surviving Tuskegee Airmen Pilots Laid to Rest

By Kevin M. Hymel, Historian on 6/22/2022

For a somber event, the funeral for Colonel Charles McGee, the last Tuskegee Airmen pilot, was surprisingly joyous. The Air Force band set the mood by playing “Ode to Joy” as they followed the caisson to the burial location in Section 3 of Arlington National Cemetery. Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Richard S. Beyea III kept up the theme by declaring to the gathered mourners, “We are celebrating an incredible life.” McGee had lived 102 years before passing away on January 16, 2022. He had been promoted to brigadier general after his retirement.

Contract Historian
Kevin M. Hymel

From Tomb100 to Flowers of Remembrance

By Kevin M. Hymel, Historian on 5/31/2022

Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb sentinels, members of 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment, the Old Guard, will play a key role in the upcoming Flowers of Remembrance Day on May 28, when the public can lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. And the sentinels are ready. They already helped the public lay flowers for two days in early November 2021 for the Tomb Centennial.

Contract Historian
Kevin M. Hymel

Flags In 2022

By Kevin M. Hymel, Historian on 5/28/2022

In the pre-dawn darkness of Thursday, May 26, uniformed members of the military spread out among the headstones of Arlington National Cemetery, their rucksacks filled with American flags. Quietly, they placed a boot against a headstone and pushed a flag into the ground at their heel. Then they moved onto the next headstone and repeated the process until a flag stood at the base of every headstone. The event, known as Flags-In had been a Memorial Day tradition since 1948.

Contract Historian
Kevin M. Hymel

Ida Lewis, "The Bravest Woman in America"

Ida Lewis, the namesake of Arlington National Cemetery’s Lewis Drive, was once known as “the bravest woman in America.” Lewis served as an official lighthouse keeper for the U.S. Lighthouse Service (later absorbed into the Coast Guard) from 1879 until her death, at age 69, in 1911. 

Contract Historian
Jenifer Leigh Van Vleck
PhD

Medal of Honor Recipients Lay Wreath at Tomb of Unknown Soldier

By Kevin M. Hymel, Historian on 3/29/2022

On National Medal of Honor Day, March 25, 2022, two Vietnam veterans, with Medals of Honor draped around their necks, laid a wreath from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The two men together symbolized the opening and closing of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Barney Barnum, a retired colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, earned his medal on December 18, 1965, as American grounds troops began arriving in South Vietnam. Brian Thacker, who served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, earned his on March 31, 1971, as U.S. troops gradually withdrew from the country.

Contract Historian
Kevin M. Hymel