Happy Monday and last day of July! Over the weekend my husband and I had the chance to sneak away to Washington, DC to see our younger son. He recently relocated there and we were anxious to visit and drop off a few things we forgot in the move. While we were there we decided to go see Arlington National Cemetery.
I have to say I enjoy history so much more now that I’m older. Somehow during my schooling I found history dull and only memorized important dates and facts for a test and forgot them quickly. We took our sons to Washington, DC many years ago and typical of young children, they were bored with the buildings and monuments. And honestly I would have reacted the same way at their age.
After passing signs for Arlington Cemetery several times on our recent trips to D.C. we really wanted to see it first hand! So, yesterday after a delicious brunch at a Triple D restaurant called Metro 29 Diner, we visited Arlington National Cemetery. I imagine the crowds are larger on the weekends but even on a Sunday around noon, the crowds weren’t too bad. We parked our car and walked the grounds. And I was pleasantly surprised that the entire event was free except for the $2 parking fee. You can take a guided bus tour, but we preferred to walk. (And walk off some of that brunch.)
There are signs here and there reminding people that these are sacred grounds and please be respectful. I was delighted to see so many families with their children and also people from other countries quietly walking around, snapping pictures and taking it all in. I got choked up snapping a few of the pictures myself. To think of the sacrifice of so many amazing Americans is just that, amazing.
We learned that Arlington National Cemetery is comprised of over 600 acres and was originally the property and home of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee. It overlooks the National Mall in Washington, DC and the Potomac River. We toured the Lee home called Arlington House which is a Greek revival style mansion with 8 massive columns along the front measuring an impressive 5 feet each in diameter! It’s beautiful! The inside of the house had tall ceilings, tons of beautiful fireplaces, ceiling medallions and some of the original furniture. I imagine it was quite the stunning estate back in the day. And what a view! (Currently the mansion and grounds are being restored.)
A quick side note? Robert E. Lee’s parents got married at The Shirley Plantation where my son and his fiancé will be married in November! Very cool!
I understand there are nearly 4 million visitors each year and over 300,000 souls buried on the grounds. Walking about, it looks like most of the tombstones are of similar make and size. But in certain areas the tombstones are more elaborate and ornate. It appears the larger grave markers belong to high ranking generals and war heroes. There is a huge tree in particular with beautiful stone markers that seems to denote a special ranking. To be laid to rest in such a beautiful setting would surely be an honor.
We saw the eternal flame that marks the tomb of John F. Kennedy. Of course I’ve read about it but there is something special about seeing it in real life. His wife Jackie and two of their babies are laid to rest along side. The brothers Bobby and Joe, Jr. are laid to rest nearby. Typically only the fallen military are buried at Arlington. Presidents can also choose to be buried there since they are Commander in Chief of the armed forces. However, only two former presidents are buried there, Presidents Taft and Kennedy.
To see the endless rows of tombstones was sobering. Some of the tombstones have markings on the front and the back but some have only numbers on the backs. There is a free phone app that can help identify a specific grave. If you go to: www.arlingtoncemetery.mil you can find a grave, learn about the monuments and memorials and find notable graves. The phone app is called ANC Explorer.
We saw only a fraction of the Arlington National Cemetery yesterday. I’d love to go back in the fall and see more perhaps on a weekday when there are less people and the temperatures are lower. I’m so happy we were able to see a bit of our rich history. That visit was definitely on my bucket list. I bet the cemetery is beautiful at Christmas too. A few years ago volunteers started laying wreaths on each of the tombs.
If you get a chance to see the Arlington National Cemetery, I would highly recommend it. The grounds are spectacular and so well taken care of. As it should be. And it’s free to visit. Next time I’d love to see some of the other monuments like the Lincoln Memorial again. The older I get, the more I appreciate our forefathers. God bless America!