Wednesday, August 5 – That was our only stop today...the best known cemetery in the United States…Arlington National Cemetery. A place of honor. A place of Valor. A place of remembrance.
Its 624 acres shelter the remains of over 320,000 servicemen and women, veterans from every war and major conflict in U.S. History. This is our nation's most sacred military shrine and bears silent witness to American history.
The soldiers who fought in the Civil War have a shield on their stones.
George Washington Parke Custis acquired the land that now is Arlington National Cemetery in 1802, and began construction of Arlington House. The estate was passed down to Custis' and his wife's (Mary Lee Fitzhugh Custis) only surviving adult child Mary Anna Custis Lee, who was married to Robert E. Lee, who interestingly was married to a granddaughter of Martha Washington and step-grandfather to George Washington – a fact neither Marsha or Paul knew. After the Civil War to add insult to Lee, over 2,111 unknown Union and Confederate dead soldiers were buried in what was once Mrs. Lee's rose garden. This was the beginning of Arlington Cemetery.
Tomb of Civil War Unknown Soliders
Arlington House is being renovated and will be a Memorial to Lee when it is completed. There were no furnishing in the house and we could not walk in many of the rooms.
View from the porch. Left…Lincoln Memorial, middle…Washington’s Monument, right…Capitol
Perhaps the best known memorial in the Cemetery is the Tomb of the Unknowns. A sentinel of the Third U.S. Infantry maintains vigil around the clock. The guard paces 21 steps along side the Tomb, pauses for 21 seconds, then returns. The changing of the guard takes place every 30 minutes. “Here rests in honored glory an American Soldier known but to God” reads the inscription on the sarcophagus of the WWI soldier entombed here in 1921.
Just a few highlights from the ceremony.
Joining their comrade, unknown serviceman from WWII and Korea were interred on May 30, 1958. An unknown from Vietnam was interred on May 28, 1984. The Vietnam unknown was removed from the Tomb and was identified in 1998 through a very sophisticated DNA process. Currently no Vietnam unknown is in the tomb. With DNA processes, one has to wonder if another unknown will ever be interred in the memorial?
Memorials and monuments are interspersed with the graves of hundreds of thousands of Americans. Some mark famous men like John J. Pershing, WWI's General of the Armies. WWII heroes Audie Murphy and General George C. Marshall lie here. Explores, Astronauts,
Supreme Court Justices
and former Presidents are also buried here. President John F. Kennedy lies beneath the eternal flame. Jackie Kennedy Onassis is buried by his side.
John is on the left; Jackie on the right
His brothers, Robert F. Kennedy and Edward Kennedy are also buried here just to his left They have a simple grave stone and a cross.
There are memorials to the
Iraq Rescue Mission
Remembering the Maine…USS Main. This is the mast of the ship.
Charles Frank Burlingame III, pilot of the plane that crashed into the Pentagon on 9-11.
There is an Amphitheater that seats 5,000. This is used for recognition ceremonies and special burials.
Paul wanted to see how it would feel to be someone of importance.
Though the past is close to all who visit Arlington National Cemetery, it is still an active cemetery. The flags stand at half staff when burials are underway. Twenty-five to thirty burials take place everyday. A funeral with full military honors is a dignified and moving occasion. An honor guard accompanies the American flag-draped coffin drawn by matching horses. A bank plays solemn marches while muffled drums beat the slow cadence for the procession. Before the remains are lowered, a squad fires three rifle volleys and a bugler blows the notes of “Taps.” Finally the guard folds the flag and presents it to the next of kin. You are asked not to take any pictures of a funeral but we could take a picture of the horse drawn carriage. They have a white set of horses and black set.
We rode home on the subway with a man and his wife who had just attended the burial of a relative. They were very moved and impressed with the ceremony.
Indeed, this is a very impressive tour. Another “must see” for those visiting the National Capital. There is a subway stop right outside the Cemetery, making it an easy and convenient place to visit.
ANOTHER INTERESTING STORY: In the photographs, you may notice Paul wears different t-shirts from various places. It is funny how people respond when they read them. Examples follow:
1. Cleveland Indians - “Go Tribe” or “What do you think of LeBron” or “Hey, the Mistake on the Lake” or “Must be hard to be a Cleveland fan”
2. Virginia Tech - “Go Hokies”
3. Hokies - “ What's a Hokie?”
4. Kent State - “Are you from Ohio too?” We walked through the Supreme Court Building with a young couple (college students) and he asked Paul about Kent. During our discussion, Paul mentioned the famous shooting by national guard troops during a Vietnam protest. The young man never heard of it! Funny, what has a major impact on a person of Paul & Marsha's age is considered fairly insignificant by this young college student.
5. Texas - “What part of Texas y’all from?” “We're from Port Aransas.” or “Go Cowboys.”
It never failed! Everyday someone would start a conversation with Paul concerning the topic of his t-shirt. So be careful what you wear, people do notice!
Thanks again for visiting with us. Hope y’all come back real soon.