The Arlington Ladies are a group of volunteers who attend funeral services at Arlington National Cemetery to ensure that no Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Coast Guardsman is buried alone.
The Arlington Ladies began in 1948 with the Air Force. The Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Hoyt Vandenberg, and his wife, Gladys, routinely attended funeral services at the cemetery and noticed that some services only had a military chaplain present. The Vandenbergs believed that a member of the Air Force family should also attend and Mrs. Vandenberg asked her friends to start attending services. Over time she formed a group from the Officer's Wives Club. In 1973, General Creighton Abrams' wife, Julia, founded the Army's version of the group. In 1985, the Navy also followed suit by creating a group of their own, and in 2006, the Coast Guard started a group as well. The Marines do not officially have a group as they send a representative of the Marine Commandant to every funeral.
Today, the Air Force, Army, Navy and Coast Guard all have Arlington Ladies who perform similar volunteer duties, attending funeral services for active duty service members and veterans. The criteria to become an Arlington Lady is different for each military service, but each has some connection to their respective service, generally as a current or former military member or a spouse of a military member. The ladies are an official part of the funeral service, representing the military service's chief of staff or equivalent. The ladies present cards of condolence to the next of kin from the military service chief and spouse on behalf of the service family, and from the Arlington Lady herself.