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Arlington National Cemetery, Washington DC

The Arlington National Cemetery is located in the Arlington County, Virginia just off Washington DC. It is the nation’s most sacred shrine established during the American Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House. The cemetery itself is well served by the DC Metro Blue Line heading up to the Pentagon and Crystal city, the stop in question will be the Arlington cemetery station. The station itself is above ground, a short 10 minute walk from the station exit along memorial drive will bring you to the cemetery’s main gates and visitor center.

Arlington Cemetery
Arlington Cemetery
the cemetery is well served by the metro
memorial drive
the cemetery visitor center
cemetery visitor center

The visitor center is an air-conditioned gathering area and rest point for the visitors of the national cemetery. The grounds itself is opened daily to the public from 8am to 7pm and is considered to be one of the few national sights the locals and international visitors alike come visit and pay their respects to in Washington. It’s surprisingly popular with the locals as well and providing educational values to visiting children as a whole. The cemetery itself is primarily a military cemetery divided into 70 main sections spanning an area over 624 acres. The grounds are administered by the United states Army themselves, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Park Service.

established during the American Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House
start of the cemetery grounds
Department of Veterans Affairs
nation’s most sacred shrine
the vast cemetery grounds
vast cemetery grounds

Moving along from the visitor center will bring you away from the Administration Building to the main roads leading up to the cemetery hills. There are guided tram tours for visitors as well, the tours touches on the various key sights in the sacred grounds as well as pointing out tombs of important people in American history. The tram ride is recommended for people with walking disabilities, difficulties walking or for people who just wish to explore the cemetery in shaded motorized comfort at a payable tram fee. Most of the roads in the cemetery are wheelchair friendly, with the exception of many hilly inclines.

The front of the cemetery is a World War I cemetery as well as the the resting site for the fallen women of the Army. Veterans and military casualties from each of the nation’s wars are interred in the cemetery. Each section here is demarcated by signs or flags stating the fallen residing here, the wars here ranging from the American Civil War through to the most recent military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The world war II section
world war II section
Arlington House on the hill
Arlington House on the hill
as it appeared prior to the parallel interment of his widow, Jacqueline Kennedy, upon her death.
Kennedy grave

A short walk up along Week’s Drive will bring you to The Kennedy Grave, the final resting place for the Kennedy family, (The President, his wife and his two children) with the daughter being the only living Kennedy at the point of this writing. Residing at John F Kennedy grave is the Eternal flame and marker burning behind the four gravemarkers at the gravesite. The Kennedy grave site itself is situated on high grounds with an Elliptical plaza near the grave site. The walls of the plaza are inscribed with Kennedy quotes. The plaza offers vantage views of the memorial drive serving the cemetery as well as the Arlington memorial bridge, the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument in the distance. The Arlington House (Lee Mansion) and The Robert E. Lee Memorial can be seen at the top of the hill from the plaza.

to the tomb of the unknown soldier
cemetery grounds
The Tomb of the Unknowns
Tomb of the Unknowns
Honoring the entombed soldiers of World War I & II
honoring WWI & II soldiers

Despite it’s vastness, the cemetery is not difficult to navigate using Google maps or the park provided directories. The cemetery is also well labeled with signage. Many of the roads here are named after iconic people of American history, such as Grant, McClellan and Roosevelt drive. There was a solemn changing of the guard ceremony at The Tomb of the Unknowns as witnessed by a huge crowd of visitors by the tomb itself. The Tomb of the Unknowns is a monument dedicated to American service members who have died without their remains being identified. This tomb in particular are for the entombed soldiers of World War I, II and the Korean War, as inscribed on the tomb itself. In the United States, the unknowns soldiers are also recipients of the Medal of Honor, who were interred on their return here and as presented by the U.S. presidents at their funerals. The World War I “Unknown” is a recipient of the Medal of Honor, the Victoria Cross, and several other foreign nations’ highest service awards.

and the Vietnam War
tomb of the unknown soldier
located behind the tomb of the unknown soldier
Arlington Amphitheater
The Arlington Amphitheater north entrance
north entrance

Only the finest of soldiers will get to serve at the tomb of the unknowns, with fewer than 20% of all eligible volunteers accepted for training and of those only a fraction pass training to become full-fledged Tomb Guards or “sentinels”. It is generally considered one of the highest honors to serve as a ceremonial guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The sentinels do not wear rank insignia on their uniforms so that they do not outrank the unknowns, regardless of their rank.

Sitting near the tomb of the unknown soldier is the Arlington National Cemetery Amphitheater, or the Arlington Amphitheater for short. Dedicated in 1920, it is a huge elaborate Italian Vermont-quarried Danby marble open air venue with a center stage used for official ceremonies to honor all American service members who serve to keep the United States free. In the cornerstone of the Amphitheater contains a time capsule sealed inside the box placed in the on Oct. 15, 1915 by President Woodrow Wilson, containing 15 items, including a copy of the Bible, the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, U.S. Flag (1915) and many more items of historical significance.

Cenotaph memorials honoring space crew
memorials honoring space crew
The Joint Resolution
Joint Resolution
Located outside the cemetery
Women war memorial

Just off the Amphitheater north entrance lies another section of the cemetery remembering the lives lost in the US space program. Memorials here honors the space crew lost in the Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters. Also remembering the USS Maine is The Cenotaph memorial dedicated to the lives lost on the ship. Last but not least is the Women in Military Service for America Memorial located just outside the cemetery, as viewed on the panorama below:

sc arlington cemetery women memorial

The memorial is also known as the The Joint Resolution Women in Military Service for America Memorial, comprising of a vast stone podium decked with a fountain pond at the center. It is designed by New York architects Marion Weiss and Michael and sits at the Ceremonial Entrance to Arlington National Cemetery, honoring all women who have served in the United States Armed Forces.

That is all for Arlington for today, next up, lets get a move on to the museums in downtown Washington.


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