This is a story that was published last February in a Florida paper, and then slowly spread over the internet. I saw it today for the first time, and as Thanksgiving come around, it is one that warms the heart.

It started when families of those killed in Afghanistan or Iraq and buried in Arlington started receiving emails from someone named Holly. The emails contained pictures of the headstones decorated with flowers.

She was just Holly to them, a mysterious e-mailer who had sent photos of headstones, of flowers by the graves. All year, the e-mails came, far-off reassurances that someone was taking care of the graves.

Eventually, they learned that her day job is making floral arrangements and delivering them to funerals at Arlington….

She’s single and works in a flower shop, on her feet all day binding blossoms together for weddings, birthdays, apologies and sad goodbyes. That’s all she’ll say about herself; this is about the soldiers.

She remembers the first one to come to Arlington National Cemetery from the Iraq war. He was Army Capt. Russell Rippetoe, 27. He had manned a nighttime checkpoint in western Iraq on Aug. 3, 2003. A car full of civilians approached. A pregnant woman got out and ran toward the soldiers, screaming. Rippetoe stepped toward her, and the car exploded. Rippetoe and two other soldiers were killed.

Holly was to deliver a floral arrangement to the funeral. An Army Ranger called her and asked her to bring along a camera to take a picture of the flowers. That was how it all started.

The mothers got to her. Her own mother had a philosophy about soldiers who die. Their wives go on; their mothers can’t.

Holly stays behind, after the bugle has blown. The mothers know that she’s there.

Holly is just a single woman working in a flower shop. A shop that sometimes is asked to deliver flowers to Arlington.

In other cemeteries, other ordinary folks plant flags in season, and visit the graves. Sometimes they get a small story in the local paper. Veterans groups are at the forefront of remembering their friends. But the desecration of graves is not uncommon, and although most cases are simply cleaned up by the caretakers before the families find out about it, some of the larger, organized hate groups that desecrate graves get their wished for publicity.

But Holly’s story, of how a quiet woman comforts the families, is ignored, as is the hundreds of other Hollys who visit and decorate the graves of the veterans on national holidays.

But the internet remembers…


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket 


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