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.
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|
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.
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|
|Grave of John F. Kennedy|
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