I first saw pictures of the little digitized squares when I was still President of the Alberta Genealogical Society three years ago.

I said to myself: “What an odd little thing! It must be a remote way for ground maintenance to contact the Office about grave damages and concerns — like sending a photo through instant messaging on your cellphone.”

I then continued on my merry way and didn’t give the matter another thought, until recently.

Arlington National Cemetery considered the use of these QR Codes. wapo.st/17Mp92W
And unfortunately, voted it down again.

I think it is a wonderful idea to implement because it can promote so much to the general public through education in history and genealogy as well as be used in tourism and routine ground maintenance, as it can track the last time work was done in the area.

If every military stone, including the memorials, had these little boxes, a visitor can walk through the cemetery on a history walk, or society “scavenger hunt” for whatever amount of time that they choose.

I have never been to Arlington, so I will use myself in this example:

I show up on a Sunday morning and the office is, of course, NOT open.
I regret that I know very little about American history or American military history, and due to this, I take a child’s wonder to it all and wander about happily because I know that this linestome library will teach me. West-South-West, I turn up along Roosevelt Drive. A maintenance vehicle slows and asks who I’m looking for.

I answer nowhere in particular and then confess that I have never been before, but am enjoying the history of it all.

“History?” The driver then asks where I have travelled from.

His eyes widen when I answer “Canada.”

The next thing I know, he insists I catch a ride with him, telling me that he knows of a place near the back of the cemetery that I would like to see.

A few minutes later, he carries on his way having dropped me off at the intersect of Farragut, Memorial and Wilson drives.

I decide to walk south along Memorial Drive.

Looking around the trees are massive and resplendant in their colours. They resemble a forest, but anyone can tell this forest is special: each any every tree is unique and symbolic of the people that they memorialize.

Within a moment or two, I find an interesting gravestone of a named serviceman with a star-shaped symbol above his name.

unitag_qrcode_1384982825933

Off-centre near the left side, I spot a QR Code and scan it. Within a minute, I learn this brave young man was posthumously awared the Medal of Honor!

Two minutes later, I read how he earned his coveted medal … single-handedly.

Another two minutes pass, I have read what his unit was outmanned and outgunned; which lead this hero into making the decision he did so quickly and without regret.

I find similar stories from neighbouring QR Codes of sailors, marines and airmen. The information is emotionally moving and draining. One code reveals scanned pages from a sailor’s journal addressed to his pregnant wife and unborn-yet child; but all have photographs of these handsome heroes — or so I was led to believe.

I toddle off deeper into the cemetery’s transquil estate, following the winding trail to still an older segment. It is as immaculate as the area I traipsed before, but the stones appear smaller, darker and a little harder to read amidst the many, shaded trees that appear larger than those that greeted me before.

I quickly notice, not all of these stones are equipped with QR Codes and I wonder “Why?”

And it is more than a few minutes before I find an informative little square. When I do, it is about six graves into the row.
I scan the the tiny image and discover that this gravemarker belongs to a Civil War soldier from the Union!

I learn his name, his unit and his age when he died. I read about the massive injuries he sustained and his unit’s movement during the war. No photopgraphs this time.

I look at the darkening sky and realize I should be going. I follow the roadway and within twenty minutes realize I’m lost!

A metal post holds a sign marked “Section 13” with a QR Code beneath it. I scan it and a cemetery map opens on my cellphone with the message “You are here!” with an arrow pointing East to the Visitor’s Centre.

Within five minutes, my courteous ride pulls over, again.

“Would you like a ride back to the Visitors Centre, Sir?” he asks.

I nod, and after climbing in ask him how he knew where I was, as I had wandered about for at least an hour since our last meeting

He points to my phone and says, “Every time a visitor scans a QR Code, we know how many visitors are in the cemetery, who they are visiting and where they are within a few feet. Most of your scans were about ten minutes apart earlier on, then they were twenty; and from where your last one was, we figured out you were walking.”

“Oh, that’s neat!” I replied.

“When the Office radioed me and told me what section I had to go to, I knew it was you,” he smiled.

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QR Codes will not take away the respect and beauty of Arlington Cemetery, they will enhance it!

I do hope they reconsider.