Monday, October 20, 2014

Hello From Washington D.C. - Arlington National Cemetery

Odd that we should pick such a somber place for our first sightseeing outing of our Washington D.C. trip, but we had never seen it and we wanted to pay our respects.  It is my humble opinion, now having been there, that every American should visit this place once in his/her lifetime.  It's very sobering.

Nearing the stately visitors' center building, we noticed right away that this is a quiet place.  There were no loud conversations or laughter going on among the visitors.  In fact, signs at various places throughout the cemetery urged visitors to be respectful of the place and what it represents.

Laying our nation's veterans and their eligible family members to rest with dignity and honor, while treating their loved ones with respect and compassion, is the cornerstone of Arlington National Cemetery's mission.

We started our visit by examining some of the displays housed in the visitors' center, then purchased tickets for a tram tour of the grounds.  This is a very large cemetery, and although we did see a few families walking throughout the grounds, at $9.00 per person, the narrated tram tour on this rainy day seemed like a good idea to us.

The tram made various stops throughout the cemetery where we could debark and take pictures and explore as long as we wanted.  Our tickets allowed us to hop on board the next tram then.

Note the different types of headstones
From the moment our tram pulled away from the visitors' center and into the cemetery, we could see neatly lined rows of graves as far as the eye could see.  Monuments, memorials, and dedicated trees commemorating individuals and significant events in our nations's history are interspersed throughout the cemetery among the headstones of service members for whom Arlington is the final resting place.

We learned that the different types and colors of tombstones represent members from the various branches of the military.  Other graves pay respect to astronauts, nurses, chaplains, war correspondents and unknowns, just to name a few.

Arlington National Cemetery is delineated into about 70 sections with markers noting locations.  Each grave has an elaborate location code.  For example, President John F. Kennedy and family's graves are located in Section 45, grave S-45.  President William H. Taft, the only other president buried in this cemetary, is interred in Section 30, grave S-14.

Monuments are coded, too.  The Space Shuttle Columbia Memorial is located in Section 46.  Section 1 houses the Pan Am Flight 103 Memorial.

The Space Shuttle Columbia Memorial
The USS Maine Mast Memorial, of the vessel sunk in Havana Harbour, February 1898
Of course, the tram stopped near the Kennedy family graves where a torch is lit at all times.  A short walkway led us to the gravesite.

Grave of John F. Kennedy
A nearby monument had one of JFK's most famous statements memorialized.

And, another somber view from the area of the Kennedy plots:

The first military burial took place here on May 13, 1864, for Private William Christman.  This property, land that once belonged to George Washinton Parke Custis, and was occupied by federal troops as a camp and headquarters, became a cemetery as the number of Civil War casualties was outpacing other local Washington, D.C. cemeteries.  Arlington National Cemetery now contains more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans, and their families.

More than 3000 ceremonies and memorial services take place at the cemetery each year, including national observances for Memorial Day and Veterans Day held at the Memorial amphitheater.  It is open for visitors and ceremonies 365 days, every year.

Next:  The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
           The Changing of the Guard


  1. Arlington is really an incredible place to visit, but the Changing of the Guard gave me goosebumps. It is so amazing.

  2. That is a very special place. I first saw the changing of the guard when I was under ten. Fast forward many years and I was attending military members funerals as a USCG representative. They do such a wonderful job of honoring those that have served their country!

  3. A very meaningful place to visit and I agree, everyone should make it a priority to visit.

  4. We were only in Washington for a day and didn't get to Arlington but we did visit the Florida National Cemetery just outside of Bushnell. As you said they are very Somber places to visit.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

  5. A very somber visit indeed but still one that should be made whenever one is in the area. I still get a wave of sadness and regret whenever I see the grave of President Kennedy.