There are hundreds of group burial markers at Arlington National Cemetery, ranging in size. There are 2,111 Civil War Unknowns buried together in section 26.
However, it is important not to confuse a group burial with that of an Unknown. In a group burial, the individuals are known, but because of the circumstances of their deaths, they are individually unidentifiable. When this occurs, the Department of Defense directs that all remains be interred together and a headstone be erected with each person's name and other pertinent data engraved upon it.
The funeral is closely coordinated with the respective service and the next of kin of the deceased. Factors such as location, date and time, and general logistics are arranged according to the wishes of the next of kin.
The largest group burial at Arlington National Cemetery took place on June 15, 1949, when 250 men from the USS Serpens were interred in 52 caskets. These men were killed on the night of Jan. 29, 1945, when the U.S. Coast Guard ammunition ship exploded and sank at Lunga Beach, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
There were 30 grave sites set aside for the burials, arranged in five rows of six graves each. The 52 caskets were buried in 28 graves. Two grave sites in the center of the block of 30 were reserved for the octagonal memorial on which all names were inscribed.
In front of the Memorial Amphitheater stands a memorial dedicated to 18 sailors who died aboard the aircraft carrier, USS Forrestal. On July 29, 1967, while off the coast of Vietnam, the Forrestal suffered a huge fire that began among aircraft on her flight deck and spread into her hangar. More than 130 men of the Forrestal lost their lives.
In April 1980 eight men were killed during a commando raid in an attempt to rescue 53 Americans held hostage in Teheran, Iran. Three of these men are buried together across from the Memorial Amphitheater. Above their grave is a large, square headstone which reads "killed in the line of duty - Iran."
The headstones give little detail of the disastrous events that the deceased suffered, nevertheless, they serve as silent sentinels to the memory of these soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen whose lives ended so tragically.
A funeral service was conducted on September 12, 2002, in the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery for the final remains of the 184 victims of the September 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon. The group burial was a funeral service for all 184 victims, but a special emphasis was placed on the five families who did not receive any recovered remains of their loved ones. Following the service in the amphitheater the group burial was held in Section 64. A five sided granite group marker was placed over the gravesite. On the five panels are the names, arranged alphabetically, of all those that perished in the Pentagon or on American Airlines Flight 77.
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