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Mementos Honor Sons Lost to War

A group of mothers is transforming the quiet and hallowed ground at Arlington National Cemetery.

Their sons were killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, buried in the cemetery's Section 60. The graves are fresh — as is each mother's grief.

But the Section 60 Mothers meet and visit regularly in the cemetery, decorating their sons' graves and nearby trees with flowers, photographs, ribbons, candles, balloons — even wind chimes.

"These are our babies," says Gina Barnhurst, whose son Marine Lance Cpl. Eric Herzberg was killed in Iraq in 2006. "This is what we do for them."

Barnhurst is celebrating her son's birthday, his gravestone covered in flowers, balloons and cards.

Army Pfc. Justin Davis was killed on June 25, 2006, during combat operations in Korengal Outpost, Afghanistan. His mother, Paula, doesn't want her son to be forgotten and has decorated his grave with three photographs.

"I want people to see this young man and all his facets of life," she says.

Davis sits in a beach chair at her son's grave, using a huge umbrella to shield her from the sun. Barnhurst joins her and writes letters to her son. "It helps me feel still connected and close," she says.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.
Jim Wildman