Whilst on honeymoon in Washington D.C. Sarah and I decided to visit the world’s most recognised cemetary at Arlington. The cemetary is the final resting place for past American presidents and American war heroes both from wars many years ago and those taking place more recently.
When you arrive at Arlington you are met with the usual tourist things – toilets, gift shop and information boards telling you the history of the cemetary.
Before leaving the gift shop we heeded some advice we’d read about online which was to buy some water. The cemetary is enormous and on the day we visited the temperature was up there in the 30’s so having plenty of fluids really is something to plan for. There are occasional water fountains as you walk around the cemetary however in the exposed sun the water points are really warm and so the water isn’t exactly refreshing!
The sight of the white gravestones stretching to the horizon is something you’ve seen (or been depicted) in plenty of Hollywood movies – think Clear and Present Danger, Saving Private Ryan – however I really wasn’t prepared for just how big Arlington Cemetary is.
President John F Kennedy gravesite
The most well known grave at Arlington is that of John F Kennedy which is well sign-posted as you wander around.
The final resting place is some distance from the information centre and finishes with an uphill walk. This offers an amazing view across city to the Washington Monument.
The Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington serves many functions including as an exhibit hall, a chapel and for services for Veterans Day and Memorial Day in addition to memorial services.
The unknown soldier
A little further walk around the Memorial Amphitheater you reach the tomb of the unknown soldier. The Arlington National Memorial website states:
“The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery stands atop a hill overlooking Washington, D.C. On March 4, 1921, Congress approved the burial of an unidentified American soldier from World War I in the plaza of the new Memorial Amphitheater.”
The changing of the guard ritual is one that is taken extremely seriously at Arlington and occurs on the hour every hour, 24 hours per day, 365 days per year October to April and every half hour from April to September.
If you’re heading to Washington D.C. this year, Arlington National Cemetary should be somewhere you make time for. There is so much history contained within the cemetary and reading the various stories of the war heroes that have been laid to rest here really does get you thinking about what so many brave men and women sacrificed for their country.
A thoroughly enjoyable but sobering and thought provoking experience.