Sunday, April 26, 2015

On the Road: Arlington National Cemetery

This past week, our daughter and I made our annual April visit to see my parents in Washington, DC.  The Purple Penguin is generally content to hang out with Grandma on her own which means I usually have an opportunity for my own adventures in town.  Despite growing up in the area, there was one major Washington sight I'd never gotten around to visiting: Arlington National Cemetery.  On Monday morning, I set off to rectify that.

Arlington National Cemetery is the most famous military cemetery in the United States.  Contained on the grounds are the remains of two Presidents, 367 Medal of Honor winners and surely thousands of others.  More come in nearly every day, as I was reminded by the white hearse that was leaving as I arrived.  The beautiful grounds are built upon the hill of an estate formerly owned by the legendary Confederate general, Robert E. Lee.  One can hardly help feeling moved walking amidst the endless sea of gravestones remembering those who have served, officers laid to rest alongside enlisted from the Civil War to the present.

Anyone living under the illusion that we live in a classless society would quickly be convinced otherwise at Arlington.  As one moves uphill, the markers get bigger and the ranks more impressive.  One sees a lot more generals and admirals near the top.  Even those with less distinguished military careers gained esteem as senators or captains of industry.  On the other hand, the cemetery's most revered memorial contains the remains of three soldiers who were never identified:
It was a beautiful, though warm day so I wasn't too keen to hunt down grave markers.  However, I did make a point of finding one:
Marshall never served in the military but certainly deserves his place for his extraordinary civilian service to the country.

The gravestones of Medal of Honor winners are marked, though I only saw one:
Click here to learn more about Staff Sergeant Windrich, including his award citation.

I am glad to have visited Arlington and recommend it to anyone with time and good weather in the Washington area.  The sun was certainly nice but I could have done with a cooler day.  In the visitor's center, there were some nice wintery pictures of the grounds, suggesting it might be meaningful to go again at a different time of year.

22 comments:

  1. I had been there back in 1982 and would love to go back and visit it again. I would look up Audie Murphy and others who served their country with valor.

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    1. I regret not seeking out President Taft's. Maybe next time.

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  2. I have been there and it has a somber beauty about it.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Somber, indeed. My fellow visitors were respectful, too - not always the case with tourists.

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  3. I visited Arlington last in 1964. Observed the ritual changing of the guard and was much moved. Since then, I've known too many of the fallen and am not sure I could see it in the same way, but I hope all freedom-loving people honor them in the privacy of their own thoughts.

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  4. We visited there some time ago, and so enjoyed watching the solemnity of the marching at the tomb of the unknown at Arlington.

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    1. It's such a simple, yet extraordinary ceremony.

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  5. This is on my to-do list for this summer or next fall.

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    1. If you have the choice, I'd recommend fall. DC area summers are brutal.

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  6. I have been there many times, including once to see the laying of wreath. It was very moving.

    Love,
    Janie

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  7. This is one of the places I really love to visit here in the DC area. I haven't been in some time, but it's really impressive and very moving--especially if you've known and loved someone who served.

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  8. I've been to Arlington several times and found it to be so incredibly moving; it takes my breath away. All the loss, all the bravery, all the patriotism and service. Amazing.

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    1. I know enough to know that war is horrible. I also know enough to know that it's worse than I could possibly imagine. The price we ask of military personnel and their families is very high. It is only right to pay tribute in whatever way we can.

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  9. I would love to visit. A friend invited me on a trip to D.C. awhile back, but then we changed travel plans. I'm going to say yes next time.

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  10. Cemetery or graveyards as they're known in Europe are such solemn places of eternal rest. I have to admit I have qualms about cremation and casket burials. Ultimately I want my soul to be set free to soar high in the sky.

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  11. What a wonderful place to visit AS and a fine reminder.

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