This month we will celebrate Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember those members of our armed forces who gave the last full measure of devotion for the United State by sacrificing their lives in service.
Today, let’s learn about a historic and beautiful icon on Memorial Day, and America.
The property was originally part of Robert E. Lee’s estate. During the Civil War, the US government confiscated it for non-payment of taxes. Since Lee was leading the Confederate forces, he couldn’t exactly show up in the North to pay those taxes.
As a final stab at Lee, and the South, the US Army started to bury dead Union soldiers in the yard. From there, it has expanded rapidly over the centuries. Currently there are more than 14,000 veterans interred here. While the cemetery did have many veterans and statesman laid to rest here, Arlington became iconic when President John F. Kennedy was buried here after he was assassinated in 1963.
Today, there are between 27 and 38 funerals daily Monday through Friday, and around 8 each on Saturday and Sunday.
For today’s military families, one area of the cemetery that has special, and somber, meaning is Section 60.
This is where many of those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried.
The graves are new, and the dates are recent.
This section brings up strong emotions, especially for those of us with ties to these conflicts.
Arlington is an active cemetery. It is also a tourist attraction.
Visitors can tour the grounds and Arlington House themselves. There are lots of maps, signs, and information through the cemetery that can help guide you.
There are also tons of guided tours. In the warmer months, a great option is the bus tour. It takes visitors around to the main attractions: Arlington House, the Kennedy grave sites, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. Walking tours on cooler days or for adventurous people are also great. Because they are not restricted to the main vehicle roads, theses groups can venture into more secluded areas of the cemetery: Hollywood, Justice Hill, and Robert Lincoln’s tomb.
Memorial Day at Arlington is super special, and super crowded. Typically, there are wreath laying ceremonies, speeches, and thousands of tourists arriving to pay tribute our fallen heroes.
Plan to arrive early by several hours if you want to see any of the wreath laying ceremonies. Take public transportation if possible. There is a stop right outside the entrance to Arlington Cemetery.
Have you been to Arlington National Cemetery?