Recently I had the pleasure of obtaining an advanced copy of Robert Poole’s upcoming book Section 60 and submitted the following review to the publisher. While I am certainly no authority, I hope that my review will at least pique an interest and entice you to get a copy for yourself. The book officially releases on October 21 2014.
Robert M. Poole. Section 60: Arlington National Cemetery, Where War Comes Home. New York: Bloomsbury, 2014. 256pp. Cloth, $27.
Robert Poole, author of the critically acclaimed On Hallowed Ground, shifts his focus toward a single section of Arlington National Cemetery. Section 60 tells the stories of those that have lost their lives as a result of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of those who rest there lost their lives well before their time and while serving their country – the ultimate sacrifice.
Poole paints an emotionally vivid picture of Section 60 which he argues serves as the ad hoc memorial to those who perished as a result of these conflicts. Much like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the graves in Section 60 contain tributes and mementos from loved ones, admirers, and comrades in arms – many of whom may owe that deceased servicemember their lives.
Poole’s knack for the human side of a story abounds within the pages of Section 60. Through interviews with friends and family of the deceased, Poole is able to draw the reader into the narratives. Not only are these the stories of brave men and women who paid the ultimate price, but they are also the struggles and hardships of those that they left behind. Especially vivid are the stories of a nineteen year old recipient of the Medal of Honor, a father fighting for justice for his son’s death, an organ recipient given another chance at life thanks to a fallen soldier, and a man haunted by the demons of his own personal war. The death of a loved one is never easy and those buried in Section 60 are there for various reasons, but even in death, these heroes still have connections to the living. Poole masterfully ties those lost to their loved one’s struggles, whether it be for justice, life lessons, or simple admiration.
Not all those interred in Section 60 are from the current wars. There are those from wars past whose whereabouts had long been lost to time, discovered long after their disappearances. Poole discusses two such cases from World War II and Vietnam — making Section 60 a true memorial across generations.
Poole’s access to Section 60 is not limited to friends and family of the fallen. He also focuses on the men and women of the military in the Washington, DC area tasked with rendering honors to those buried in Arlington. Poole writes of the rigorous training involved with carrying a casket, folding a flag, and even firing the standard 21-gun salute. Each task as meticulous as it is expected to be flawless. He also follows the soldiers of the Old Guard’s storied caisson platoon who transport the remains along the solemn drives of Arlington to their final resting places.
Poole’s book opens with the quote, “People never die until they are forgotten,” and through Section 60 he has solidified the memory of the fallen to many more generations of Americans.
by Kevin Welker
Preservation Project Director,
Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier