A new memorial in Arlington is being dedicated to the USS Thresher, a submarine which sank in 1963, killing all 129 men on board. It was the worst submarine disaster in U.S. history. (Wikipedia Commons/USERR)
Judy Douglas has waited 56 years for this moment.
Her brother Lt. John Smarz Jr. was one of the 129 men who died when the USS Thresher, the most advanced submarine of its era, sank to the ocean floor during a deep dive test on April 10, 1963, about 220 miles east of Cape Cod. The event remains the worst submarine disaster in U.S. history.
On Thursday, the 79-year-old Douglas, of Shelton, Conn., will gather with other family members of the deceased at Arlington National Cemetery for the unveiling of a memorial in honor of the Thresher crew and the submarine safety program that came afterward, which, Douglas said, she considers part of her brother's legacy. She and about 50 others will be taking a bus down from Norwich organized by the memorial fundraisers, who had raised $60,000 in private donations for the marker.
"Long time coming," Douglas said of the memorial. "I mean it's going to be quite an experience."
Under current criteria, "[n]early all of the 22 million living armed forces members and veterans are eligible for less than 95,000 remaining burial spaces." Without changes, the Army says the cemetery will hit capacity by the 2050s.
The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard, the U.S. Air Force Band Ceremonial Brass, and the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) Caisson Platoon conduct military funeral honors with funeral escort for U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. (ret.) Marcelite Harris in Section 30 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, Feb. 7, 2019./U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser
Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 400,000 service members, veterans and their families. The hallowed ground is a symbol of national service, and a shrine to the sacrifices made by those in uniform.
In recent years, there's been a growing push to see a change in what funeral honors are rendered for some of the country's most distinguished heroes: Medal of Honor recipients and prisoners of war. As it turns out, the cemetery has already made some of those changes.
Medal of Honor recipient Marine Col. Wesley Fox was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery almost a half-century after the heroism that earned him the military's highest award, the Marine Corps announced on Tuesday.