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I started this book to prepare myself for an upcoming memorial service for a World War II sailor at Arlington. I found myself listening to it whenever I had a few moments, even sitting for a few minutes in my car after my commute to and from work. It gave me an understanding of the history and politics of this national treasure. Surprisingly, I found myself listening with such concentration, that at moments, I found myself tearing with emotion as if I was standing there with the families of our fallen soldiers. I found the voice of BlackJack the horse's handler describing JFK's funeral procession bringing me right back to that fateful week when I was a little boy watching everything on TV.
The author really did his homework, which is evident all throughout this well organized book. He takes us from the very beginnings of the estate through the most recent events. It also served as a history of the United States from the Civil War to the present, with the author showing how Arlington was tied into many national events of the time. This detail really came through when I actually visited the cemetery and found myself having a much deeper understanding of the ceremony, the locations and people buried there.
The author's narration was performed in a pleasant tone that would be proper for the subject at hand. The audio production was well done and did not notice the typical voice drop-ins that usually come with a book filled with many difficult pronunciations.
Simply put, it gave me a very clear understanding of the sacrifice of our Armed Forces and why they are so proud of the men and women who rest there.
I enjoyed it thoroughly.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
"On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery" is a gem of a book that presents American history in a way I've never experienced it before. It starts with a look of its history, our history, in the times of slavery and continues to our day.
Robert E. Lee kind of comes off like, well, let's put it this way: when he gets the land, through his wife's family, he puts up a whipping post where there never was one before. The slaves had been treated with a tiny amount of dignity and respect, but the man needs it to "start producing" because he has needs that have to be met. And he thinks they'd had a free ride in the years prior. Not very nice.
The years, and wars, that follow are discussed, with a history of their major offensives, and it's all heroic. And tragic. So tragic. There's a real respect for those who fought, and especially for those who lost their lives, whether they were seasoned officers or just men on their first day into battle.
I learned so much! About each battle, about everything behind-the-scenes, about the lives and prevailing views of each time period. I'd never known how each Unknown Soldier had been chosen, and it was heartbreaking and touching. And interesting. Since Vietnam, and its controversial determination of an Unknown, we're rather at the point where there may be no more: DNA and modern forensics may determine who they are when they're all finally found. Mothers, wives, children will just have to wait until that day and the day they're brought home. And perhaps they'll have to wait and wait and wait…
And I never knew that "No Man Left Behind" started in the Korean War with "concurrent recovery," where battle lines were constantly changing and the stripping of corpses by the Chinese meant battleground cemeteries on foreign soil were an impossibility.
What touched me most was what somberness, what dignity, and respect are shown to each of our nation's fallen: each soldier is carried with care, salutes are shot with precision, and flags are folded with crisp perfectness. And there is someone always, always there for the families. Every soldier comes with his own story, with his own lost dreams. It broke my heart.
The author narrates this, obviously he's a military man who knows what he's talking about, from whence each man comes. He delivers it all in that almost flat military tone but one that's knowledgeable, respectful, and, oddly, emotional at times. I'll admit it: I cried here and there throughout.
If you love history, if you love a good, touching story, if you have respect for the fallen: you won't regret this one. It was more moving than many a book I've listened to in a long time.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful