Arlington National Cemetery
Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday of May in the United States. Most of us think of it as the start of summer and fail to remember the true meaning of the holiday. On Memorial Day we honor the military heroes we have lost while they were serving our country. They have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, losing their lives while serving to protect our country. This is something to think about today as we are being asked to do such simple things as wearing a mask and avoid large groups to keep each others safe. It seems pretty minor compared to risking your life to keep others safe.
There are many military cemeteries across the US, the largest is located just outside of Washington DC in Arlington, VA. The Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting spot for over 400,000 military veterans and their immediate family members.
These veterans served in many wars such as American Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korean War and the Vietnam War.
One of the most somber and impressive things to see in the cemetery is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It stands as a tribute to unidentified fallen soldiers from World Wars I and II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The Tomb is guarded, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by Tomb Guard Sentinels from the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment.
The tomb is located on a hill in the almost perfect geographic center of the cemetery. It’s a very somber yet also a very peaceful and profound experience to watch the guard as he marches 21 steps in each direction passing grave markers of each unknown soldier and pausing for 21 seconds while looking over the cemetery.
During the hours the cemetery is open, crowds gather in silence to watch the changing of the guard. This takes place every half hour from April thru September and every hour from October thru March. At night when the cemetery is closed the changing of the guard takes place every two hours.
The changing of the guard is one of the most symbolic and meaningful things you can experience while visiting Washington DC. I definitely recommend making the time to head out to the cemetery to experience it.
On Memorial Day and Veterans Day each year, remembrance services are held in the Memorial Amphitheater. The President or Vice President of the United States often attends these services.
Other important sites to see in the cemetery include the gravesite of President John F. Kennedy. The gravesite includes the eternal flame that his wife Jacqueline lit at his funeral. This flame remains lit to this day. Other Kennedy family members are also buried nearby.
Also buried in the cemetery are the seven astronauts of the Space Shuttle Challenger, President Taft and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
The former residence of Robert E. Lee, now known as Arlington House sits on a hill overlooking the cemetery. It was built as a living memorial to our first president George Washington but in 1864 was changed to serve as a burial site for civil war soldiers. This home is open for public tours.
Things have been different in Arlington National Cemetery the past couple of months just like the rest of the world. It has not been open to the public. For Memorial Day, only family member of those buried there will be allowed in and none of them will be able to comfort each other with a hug. This is very sad and really puts into perspective how minor missing a holiday cookout or beach trip really is compared to what others are going through in the world today. Please spend Memorial Day remembering these brave souls who gave their life fighting for our country and their families who continue to grieve them.