Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery is the United States of America’s best-known and largest burial ground. Admission to is free. Arlington National Cemetery is located in Arlington, Virginia (driving directions).
“For the almost four million people who visit annually, Arlington National Cemetery represents many different things. For some, it is a chance to walk among headstones that chronicle American history; for man, it is an opportunity to remember and honor the nation’s war heroes; and for others, it is a place to say a last farewell during funeral services for a family member or friend.” (Source: ArlingtonNationalCemetery.org)
Several notables (e.g., John F. Kennedy, former United States President – his grave is memorialized with an eternal flame; Thurgood Marshall, United States Supreme Court Justice; Joe Louis, boxer; Matthew Henson, co-discoverer of the North Pole, William Howard Taft, Chief Justice of United States Supreme Court and many more) are buried at Arlington National Cemetery, including, James Parks, a former Arlington estate slave, who dug the first graves at Arlington National Cemetery. James Parks is buried in Section 15. Arlington National Cemetery performs over 27 funeral services each day.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The Tomb of the Unknowns also known as The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is located within Arlington National Cemetery and is guarded by The Third United States Infantry Guard (Old Guard/Honor Guard). Rain, snow, sleet or hail – – the Honor Guard protects the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
“The Tomb sarcophagus was placed above the grave of the Unknown Soldier of World War I. West of the World War I Unknown are the crypts of unknowns from World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Those three graves are marked with white marble slabs flush with the plaza.” (Source: Arlington National Cemetery)
The Changing of the Guard
“The changing of the guard ceremony is conducted every hour in winter time, and every half hour during summer daylight hours to provide visitors ample opportunity to witness one of the Army’s proudest traditions.
As the active sentry nears the conclusion of his walk, a uniformed relief commander enters the plaza to announce the Changing of the Guard. When the sentinel assigned the next walk leaves the guards’ quarters, he unlocks the bolt of his M-14 rifle to signify that he is ready to begin the ceremony. The relief commander approaches the tomb, slowly salutes, then faces the visitors and requests silence during the ceremony.
As the new sentinel approaches the relief commander slowly and with great precision, conducts a white-glove inspection of the sentinel’s weapon. The two then march to the center of the mat where the duty sentinel stops his walk, and all three men salute the Tomb.
“Pass on your orders.” the commander instructs the active sentinel.
“Post and orders, remain as directed.” He replies.
“Orders acknowledged.” Answers the relieving sentinel, who then steps into position at the center of the black mat. As soon as the relief commander passes, the new sentinel begins his own walk, 21 paces south, turn and pause for 21 seconds, turn and pace 21 steps south, and then repeat the actions without distraction until relieved by the next Changing of the Guards.” (Source: HomeofHeroes.com)
If you ever get the chance to witness the changing of the guard I am sure you will agree that this event is best witnessed in person.
Hours of Operation
Arlington National Cemetery is open 365 days a year from 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (April 1st – September 30) and 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (October – March).
Parking and Transportation
For more information about Arlington National Cemetery, please visit www.arlingtoncemetery.org.