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Honoring the fallen: Michigan Farm Bureau members visit, reflect at Arlington National Cemetery

Date Posted: March 28, 2024
‘Sobering’ reminder: Michigan Farm Bureau members visit, reflect at Arlington National Cemetery

WASHINGTON — Twenty-three funerals are taking place.

The tour guide sends out advice.

And demands: Don’t take photos during the processions. Keep quiet. Respect the dead.

Just 100 or so steps from former President John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s grave marker — the eternal flame dancing in the March, fall-like wind — another warning, a sign: “Honor the dead.”

Among the dead are two former presidents and hundreds of thousands of Vermont marble grave markers, 42 inches tall, only 24 inches of which are shown aboveground, showcasing the names of generals, war heroes, sons, daughters, and unknown soldiers.

Among the dead Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., more than 40 Michigan Farm Bureau county presidents walk on brick pathways, twisting around 15-foot obelisks, bobble-heading to the right, left, whispering to their walking partner about what a tombstone says, who it’s supposed to honor, why.

Here you honor the dead.

Among them is U.S. Army Air Force 2nd Lt. Peter Andrew Timpo and Private First Class Robert Warren Fletcher, two Michigan soldiers given wreaths by MFB members for their service.

“I started to do a little research on the lieutenant (Timpo) and found his biography, and it was quite interesting: He was a bombardier and went down near Romania on a bombing mission,” said Carl Graham, president of Wayne County Farm Bureau.

“It’s been a privilege to be able to do this today.”

Timpo of Ecorse, Michigan, served in World War II and was, until July 20, 2022, not accounted for following a bombing mission in 1943 when enemy anti-aircraft attacked during Operation Tidal Wave, “the largest bombing mission against the oil fields and refineries at Ploiesti, north of Bucharest, Romania,” according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. He was eventually buried in the National Arlington Cemetery in 2023.

Fletcher of Ann Arbor served in the Korean War in the 24th Infantry Regiment, “a unit of black enlisted soldiers and mostly white officers,” according to the Detroit Free Press. While serving, he became a prisoner of war. He was later buried at Arlington National Cemetery in 2018.

“Our members may not have been here before, but it gives them the history of our country, of what our citizens did,” said Carl Bednarski, a farmer from Tuscola County and president of MFB. “This lets them know there are citizens who really care about our country.”

As part of the President’s Capitol Summit, members met peers from across the state to help guide new county presidents as they take on their new roles, including learning current state and national organizational issues, and leadership skills.

“You just look at the vastness of the cemetery,” Bednarski added. “What all these people did for us is very sombering, and to recognize them is remarkable.”

Here, you respect the dead.

Here, you honor the dead.


Wide shot of a group of Michigan Farm Bureau members standing amongst the headstones in Arlington National Cemetery.

Photo by Michigan Farm Bureau.