Salon has an interesting piece up about how Arlington National Cemetery handles mementos left by graves. The article seems to come down on the side of believing that there’s some obligation on the part of management to collect and store what mourners leave, but I’m not sure I concur. They reference the project that collects and archives items left at the Vietnam memorial but they don’t point out that the collection isn’t really viewable by the public in any way. Perhaps that doesn’t matter, though I wonder at the value of saving and cataloging these things versus simply disposing of them with respect.
On the other hand, if they did not we wouldn’t have stories like this.
I must have looked confused or incredulous. The value of saving a single cigarette was clearly lost on me.
“Look closely,” Felton said quietly.
I peered in at the cigarette. Someone had taken a pen and written on it in tiny letters, “It ain’t wet. It ain’t broke.”
Felton waited. He could see this didn’t help me much. He smiled. Then he explained the sensation of patrolling the jungles of Vietnam, completely soaking wet, for weeks on end. You felt like you would never, ever be dry again. “A dry cigarette was worth a million dollars,” he explained.
I don’t envy the people who have to make policy decisions about things like this.