Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Arlington National Cemetery

My father served in two wars: World War II and the Korean War. Consequently, visiting Arlington National Cemetery was another item on my Bucket List. 

I was surprised to learn that, on average, 100 burials occur there every week. But as I stood atop a hill in the cemetery and gazed down upon row after row after row of white gravestones, 100 no longer seemed like such a large number.

Here are more interesting facts about Arlington National Cemetery:
  • The 1,100 acre property and the main structure (the Custis-Lee Mansion) were originally a private family estate owned by the son of Martha Washington's son by her first marriage, a boy whom George Washington adopted. The grandson's name was George Washington Parke Custis.
  • The name "Arlington" was borrowed from an ancestral mansion owned by the Custis family.
  • The mansion was later intended to serve as a memorial to George Washington.
  • George Washington Parke Custis and his wife lived in the mansion until their deaths. They are both buried on the property.
  • George Washington Parke Custis' only child, MaryAnna, married Robert E. Lee. Yup, that Robert E. Lee. Arlington was left to her in her father's will. 
  • In his will, George Washington Parke Custis requested that his slaves become educated and free.
  • Upon Virginia's secession from the Union in 1861, MaryAnna and her husband fled Arlington out of fear for their personal safety. They never returned to the property.
  • Shortly thereafter, Arlington was militarily occupied and was eventually confiscated by the federal government. Arlington was put up for public sale and was purchased by a tax commissioner for government use.
  • In 1864, the grounds were designated as a military cemetery.
  • In 1870, George Washington Custis Lee (the son of MaryAnna and Robert E. Lee) went to court to reclaim Arlington which he claimed had been illegally taken from his family. In 1882, the Supreme Court ruled in his favor. Congress then acquired the property from him for $150,000.
This is Arlington House, the original mansion.
These were our views from Arlington House.
That's the Washington Monument in the background.
We saw some of the Kennedy family graves.
Random photos, lots of branches...
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, located in the Memorial Amphitheater, is the resting place of an unknown World War I soldier. The tomb overlooks Washington D.C. 

This photo is looking up towards the tomb from the opposite side.
Construction of the Memorial Amphitheater began in 1915. President Woodrow Wilson placed its cornerstone which houses a box. Among the box's contents are: a Bible, copies of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, a U.S. flag, coins and stamps dated 1915, and a 1914 map of Washington D.C. Memorial services are often conducted in this amphitheater.
The USS Maine mysteriously exploded in the Havana Port, Cuba in 1898. The USS Maine Memorial contains the battleship's actual mast.
The Space Shuttle Columbia Memorial
The Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial
I'm not sure what purpose this fountain serves, but I couldn't resist taking photos of its water in motion. 
Some more photos of the grounds with even more branches...
Just thought this statue of Field Marshal Sir John Dill was pretty.

See what I mean by rows and rows and rows of white gravestones?

Just liked this tree.

As we were leaving, I caught a photo of this little guy.

For me, this bird deepened my feelings of reverence. It was very humbling to walk the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery. It was a very tangible representation of the fact that my freedom was fought for and is protected by those who have served and continue to serve my country. To them, I am eternally grateful.

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