I’ll bet no one realized that the headstone image was not randomly chosen…

November 13, 2009, 11:11 PM

This was the photo feature that I ran to coincide with Veterans’ Day:

Headstone of Jason Redifer

This was not a randomly chosen headstone, and this was not a blanket tribute to all who died in battle. This was a tribute to a local hero. For those not familiar, Jason Redifer was a Marine Lance Corporal from Stuarts Draft, Virginia, where I did most of my growing up, and went to school with my sister. He was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2005. I believe he was the first person from the area killed in Iraq. The bridge that carries Route 608 over Interstate 64 in Fishersville is named in his honor.

I knew that he had been buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and since moving to the DC area in 2007, knowing that he was buried nearby, I wanted to get a photo of the headstone as something of a tribute. I finally got the photo last month, when Isis, her boyfriend, and I did a photo trip to Arlington Cemetery. I’m glad we got great weather for the trip. The picture came out superbly well.

It was also interesting, in going through Section 60, where Redifer is buried, to see various adornments on different headstones. One common one that we saw was stones placed on top of headstones:

One common one that we saw was stones placed on top of headstones.

Most stones we saw were pebble-sized – much smaller than the ones pictured. As it turns out, the placement of stones on top of headstones is Jewish tradition, as it is a sign of respect by symbolically participating in the erection of a monument to the dead. We saw the same practice on more than just Jewish headstones, though. We also saw it on many Christian headstones. I don’t know whether it carries different symbolism than the Jewish tradition, or if it is the same concept carried over from Judaism.

Another thing we occasionally saw was beer cans placed next to headstones. The first thing I thought of was foul play, but this notion was quickly dispelled once we noticed that the placement of the beer cans where we found them was fairly uniform. It certainly seemed that their placement was deliberate, apparently placed in tribute. For instance:

Beer can next to a headstone

I researched this online later, and found an article where someone found a full beer can next to a grave, with a note attached saying, “I told you we would have a beer when you got home.”

Even though we were there primarily for photography, going through the cemetery, away from the more touristy areas, was certainly a moving experience. It certainly shows the true toll of war on a country, as each headstone represented someone who would never see their family again after giving their life for their country. Thus for the family members of these servicemembers, a trip to Arlington National Cemetery is like paying a visit to a loved one, to say hello to them again, and to reconnect.

I was glad to finally have an opportunity to pay tribute to Jason Redifer, whom my mother and sister both knew well. He gave his life for his country, and we must never forget these types of sacrifices…

Web site: Various articles about Redifer's death in Iraq

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Categories: Arlington, Holidays