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The Saddest Acre in America: Section 60 Of Arlington National Cemetery

10:15 PM, May 3, 2011   |    comments
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ARLINGTON, Va. (WUSA)  -- The morning after news broke that Osama bin Laden was killed, scattered images marking the event began collecting beside the gravestones at Arlington Cemetery. 

It marks a bittersweet victory for families of the fallen buried in Section 60.  That is the area where soldiers killed during today's wars are buried. 

"We're thankful that such a hateful man is gone," said Jessica Oatman, whose brother died in Afghanistan 20 months ago.  "But we just need to be aware of what's coming because it's not over yet." 

Oatman and her mother were visiting from Williamsburg, Virginia Monday morning with her three sons and two younger brothers.  As the eldest of seven siblings, she sees how the death of her brother Paul E. Dumont Jr. will forever impact her family.  

"He was a wonderful family man," she said.  "He was married for a year, celebrated his one year anniversary and died 10 days later.  We miss him so much." 

Oatman was among dozens who left keepsakes marking the news that Osama bin Laden was finally killed a decade after Sept. 11.  She placed a small American flag at the foot of her brother's stone.  In blue marker, she had written "Osama is gone."

Amy Nieberger-Miller left the front page of the day's newspaper at her brother's gravestone.  

"Chris was a history buff. He would have loved the fact that the news of Osama bin Laden was announced on the same day as Hitler's death," she said.  "It's a bittersweet thing...I mean, I am so proud of my brother...but I'm still sad that he's gone."

That same sadness she felt drove Nieberger-Miller to apply for a job as a spokesperson for the organization known as TAPS, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.  It's a non-profit that reaches out to help families coping with the fresh loss of soldiers killed during combat. 

"A lot of our families today, unlike the Vietnam era," she said, "they identify themselves as families of the fallen.  They might have gold star license plates on their cars or wear a special pin or have a gold star banner hanging on their home."

She added anyone who sees those symbols can make a difference just by showing gratitude.  

"Just say, 'Thank you,'" she said.  "You don't have to do a lot." 

For Jessica Oatman's mother, Bonnie Dumont, recent news about Osama bin Laden only heightens her concern for troops serving overseas.  She admits she has mixed emotions. 

"A lot of these people out here have the same feelings. That he's gone, but their lives have changed forever," she said.  "Whether he's here or gone it doesn't matter.  We don't get Paul back."

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