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SportsCenter Recognizes Woman Who Paid Respects On Behalf Of Those Who Couldn’t Visit Arlington National Cemetery

Despite social distancing, Emily Domenech found a way to connect people to their loved ones while honoring fallen soldiers at Arington National Cemetery.


ESPN “SportsCenter” host Scott Van Pelt dedicated a few minutes of his show Tuesday to recognize the patriotic act of one woman who spent her Memorial Day connecting friends and family with their loved ones buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Emily Domenech, who full disclosure is the sister of Federalist Publisher Ben Domenech, went to visit her late grandfather John Domenech’s grave when she had the idea to visit graves on the behalf of others who might not be allowed in the cemetery due to social distancing restrictions. Domenech tweeted, “Does anyone have buddies buried in Arlington who they would like visited today? Since only family members are allowed in, I would be honored to pay respects on your behalf…”

Van Pelt said the 639 acres, which serve as the final resting place to more than 14,000 soldiers, are described as the nation’s most hallowed ground. While the cemetery typically attracts more than 135,000 visitors throughout the holiday weekend, but it’s been closed to the public since March. This year, only families whose loved ones were buried at Arlington could obtain passes to visit the cemetery throughout the day Monday.

“Thousands of replies which sent Emily searching through the thousands of white marble grave stones for friends who were unable to be standing where she was,” Van Pelt said. “Post after post picture after picture of those being remembered with honor on that day…From World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq,  Operation Enduring Freedom among them.”

Domenech left to get more flowers and enlisted her parents’ help to visit and photograph as many gravesites as possible before the cemetery closed that evening. She ended up visiting 60 gravesites.

“Strangers linked in a way those who died so long ago could never have imagined. Created such a strange sense of modern day community,” Van Pelt said. “People who we didn’t know fought for people who they didn’t know and here we were remembering them because of another person that we don’t know.”

Van Pelt credited acts like Domenech’s for focusing Twitter users on something meaningful, such as real loss and sacrifice. Her selflessness allowed people to take a break from yelling at one another on the social media platform, he said, and produced a sense of genuine gratitude.

Other media outlets picked up the story Domenech’s of Memorial Day activity including NPR, the Post Millennial, and DCist. Domenech also appeared on Fox News’ “The Daily Briefing” with Dana Perino.

“The response was overwhelming,” Domenech said. “I got a few tweets at first with a handful of people giving me locations of their loved ones or their fellow service members, but by the time I got to the fourth or fifth request, I had a list that was so long I wasn’t sure how to even manage it.”