Arlington National Cemetery

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August 2nd 2016
Published: March 29th 2018
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My flight wasn't leaving from the airport in Baltimore until the early evening, meaning that I had the morning to do some more sightseeing. I had been looking online for more free tours, I've become a bit addicted to them, and found one for Arlington National Cemetery. The cemetery is a short subway ride out of the city and it didn't take me too long to get there. I met the tour group at the office at the entrance to the cemetery and from there we headed inside. Arlington National Cemetery is a 624 acres military cemetery, which was established in 1864. The dead of the nation's conflicts have been buried here since the Civil War, and the dead from earlier battles have been re-interred in the cemetery. Private William Henry Christman of Pennsylvania was the first soldier to be buried here on 13th May 1864. The cemetery is on the grounds of Arlington House, which was part of the estate of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee's wife Mary Anna's family, she was the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington.

As we entered the cemetery properly, I saw the list of rules that people have to follow. There was quite a long list of dos and don'ts, especially when it came to what and how flowers are to be displayed on the graves. As we walked along the paths next to the graves, our guide told us some information about the cemetery. The cemetery was very calm and peaceful, just a sea of small white gravestones. It was really interesting to read the gravestones and see where the soldiers had served. Our guide told us that sometimes you can observe a funeral taking place, however there were none going on while we were there. There are some notable burials in the cemetery and five state funerals have been held at the cemetery. We had come to the 'eternal flame', which marks the graves of the former president, John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Other member of the Kennedy family are also buried there.

One of the reasons a lot of people visit Arlington National Cemetery is to watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown soldier. After we had visited the graves of the Kennedy family, we headed over there as it was time for the ceremony. The tomb sits on top of a hill overlooking Washington, D.C. I can understand why people want to be buried in this cemetery; it is a beautiful, peaceful place with gorgeous views of the Capitol. The tomb contains the remains of unknown soldiers from World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. The remains of an unknown soldier from the Vietnam War was entombed there, but these were disinterred by Bill Clinton in 1998 and the remains were identified and returned to the soldier's family. The tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded by the 3rd US Infantry Regiment, who have been doing so, since the 6th April, 1948. The tomb was previously guarded by other regiments of the US army since the 2nd July, 1937. I had a pretty good spot to watch the changing of the guard ceremony and snapped quite a few pictures in the process. Three soldiers take part in the changing of the guard ceremony and they follow a very specific routine. There is no way I could do what the soldiers do standing outside in full dress uniform in the blistering heat and awful humidity. The winters must be bad too. I found the changing of the guard ceremony a little weird, creepy, in fact. I could hear other people commenting on how nice/moving it was, but I really didn't feel that way. The soldiers creeped me out a bit. They wear reflective sunglasses, so you can't see their eyes and they have a very fixed impression on their faces. Also, there movements were very mechanical, robotic looking. I wasn't the only one who found it a bit different as I heard one guy say it was it looked like a scene from 'The Matrix'.

We headed uphill to the Arlington Memorial Amphitheatre, which holds state funerals and Memorial and Veterans Day ceremonies. The amphitheatre is a beautiful marble structure and can hold around 5,000 people. Near the amphitheatre, there are quite a few memorials, so I spent a while looking at those. The ones commemorating the space shuttles Coloumbia and Challenger had some really nice artwork. There were lots of gardeners in this area as there appeared to be a lot of maintenance working going on. The grass appeared to be missing, so I presumed that they were replacing it. There were some nice gardens filled with flowers, so I had a quick look around those. Then our last stop was Arlington House, which is a Greek revival style mansion. The mansion was built between 1803 and 1818 on the orders of George Washington Parke Curtis, the adopted grandson of George Washington and the only grandson of Martha Curtis Washington. I don't know what the mansion looks like on the inside, but the views that it commanded were amazing. You could see down the National Mall. The area was also really green. It was a very picturesque view.

Once the tour was over, I made my way back to the subway and to the hostel for a quick bite to eat. From there, I took the subway and a bus to the airport in Baltimore. I have had an amazing four weeks in the US. I covered a lot of ground, thanks to some internal flights and our road trip(s). It was so nice to see my friends and hang out with them. I love the diversity in America, all the different scenery and landscapes. Moving from state to state, it did at times feel like I was visiting different countries. The end of this trip has also left me eager to return one day to explore some of the other states and beautiful places I have read about or have been told about.

Additional photos below
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Eternal FlameEternal Flame
Eternal Flame

And the graves of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

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