ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
1 Memorial Drive
Fort Mayer, Virginia 22211 Established: 1864
Bella Morte Rating: 3 Tombstones
In the popular imagination, Arlington National Cemetery is comprised entirely of acre upon acre of uniform white headstones, each distinguished from its neighbor solely by the different information inscribed on its polished white surface. In reality, from 1947 to 2001, privately-purchased grave markers were allowed in the cemetery. In the 54 years they were permitted, Arlington accumulated quite a number of non-military type headstones including obelisks, angels, bronze reliefs, large crosses, ledgers and other stones typical of civilian cemeteries. Although a number of these are attractive, there is much to be said for the uniformity of stones marking the graves of hundreds of thousands of brothers and sisters in arms. Our decided devotion to the beauty of the Garden Movement Cemeteries aside, there is something sobering and even awe-inspiring in contemplating acres of uniform white stones, each representing a soul whose life was dedicated to the service of America and her interests.
The 624 acres of immaculately groomed and maintained cemetery grounds comprise 70 sections, some reserved for future expansion. Currently existing sections include Chaplain’s Hill, which, as the name implies, contains the remains of military chaplains from various faith traditions. Other sections are dedicated to Civil War soldiers, military nurses, and veterans of specific military conflicts. Section 60 is dedicated to individuals killed since 2001 in the War on Terror.
There are a number of notable monuments to visit at Arlington, among them the Memorial Amphitheatre and the Kennedy Plot with its eternal flame. In addition, a host of memorials have been constructed, including those dedicated to: Women in Military Service for America, the Space Shuttle Challenger, the Space Shuttle Columbia, the USS Maine, the Pentagon (honouring those killed in the September 11th attack on that building) and the Pan Am Flight 103 Memorial Cairn. The base of this unusual memorial is engraved with the following words:
On 21 December 1988, a terrorist bomb destroyed
Pan American Airlines Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland,
killing all on board and 11 on the ground.
The 270 Scottish stones which compose this memorial cairn
commemorate those who lost their lives in
this attack against America
The memorial is a gift to the citizens of America from the citizens of Scotland and was presented by the Lockerbie Air Disaster Trust.
Of course, no visit to Arlington is complete without viewing the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. The ceremony is impressive and we counted ourselves privileged to stand in silence and witness it while offering our thanks to all those unknown individuals who gave their lives to protect our safety and freedom.
Speaking of Unknowns… As of 2012, legislation has been introduced in Congress to create a memorial ossuary to be known as the “Place of Remembrance.” If approved, the ossuary will contain cremated fragmentary remains unable to be identified through DNA analysis.
When in the Washington, DC area, please set aside ample time to visit Arlington and pay rightful tribute to the fallen heroes who rest there.
Interesting note: Currently, following VA guidelines, Arlington permits a considerable variety of “Emblems of Belief” for inclusion on grave markers. Aside from the traditional Christian cross, Jewish Star of David and Muslim Crescent and Star, a host of lesser-known symbols are also approved including the Buddhist Wheel of Dharma, the Zoroastrian Farohar, the Native American Four Directions and, following a hard-fought battle by the family of Sergeant Patrick Stewart, a practicing Wiccan who died in combat in Afghanistan on 25 September, 2005, the Wiccan Pentacle.