This week on the blog, we are visiting the lovely, awe-inspiring Arlington National Cemetery. After church on Sunday, March 5, we traveled south to Washington, D.C. Before we even checked into our room, we headed out to see some sites. We wanted to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns and visit some other graves. Even though I had seen photos of Arlington over the years, I was in astounded at the sheer number of tombstones! It was an ocean of them, as far as the eye could see in any direction, or so it seemed. I was also surprised that a cemetery could be so beautiful.
Everywhere you looked, there were rows and rows of tombstones, all in perfect lines, no matter which way you turned. The grass was lush and verdant even though spring had barely peeked its head out. The Lord gave us a special bonus to allow us to see the early buds of the cherry blossom trees, too. They were not expected to bloom until early April.
The home at the top of the hill is Arlington House. That was the home once owned by Robert E. Lee’s wife and where he and his family lived prior to the Civil War. The property at Arlington was commandeered by the Federal Government in retaliation for his part in the Confederacy. Without the Civil War, we would have no Arlington National Cemetery.
For some reason, Matt immediately stood at attention and saluted. It was so sweet.
Cherry Blossoms blooming.
On our way to the Tomb of the Unknowns, we stopped to see JFK’s, Jackie’s, and their baby, Patrick’s, grave with the eternal flame.
Once again, Matt saluted. It reminded me of the photo of JFK Jr. at his father’s funeral.
RFK is buried near his brother, but he doesn’t have a very glamorous area. He is buried in view of Arlington House, so that’s something, I guess.
The Washington Monument from JFK’s grave.
Arlington has a great many hills. We were in a big hurry to find our way to the Tomb of the Unknowns. Climbing the hills a fast clip definitely got our heart rates going. Matt had to be carried part of the way for us to make it in time.
He sure has a great dad!
We not only saw the changing of the guard, but also two wreath-laying ceremonies. The men brought out the wreaths, representatives from the schools donating the wreaths came out, were escorted out to place the wreath at the tomb along with a Marine. Then, we were ordered to stand and salute while “Taps” was played on the trumpet. It was very moving to hear that haunting tune played in such a solemn place. “Taps” was played regularly during the Civil War to let the men know it was time to bed down for the night. It is appropriate that it has become the melody to honor our fallen heroes.
This plaque was on the wall in the guard’s area.
Next, we found the grave of Audie Murphy. He was the Texas boy who would go on to be the most decorated soldier of World War II. What a guy! When I was young, I saw the movie about his life, in which he also stars as himself. My dad really loved and admired him. I watched his biography on A & E where his sister tells how he used to shoot rabbits to put food on the table during the depression. “He was a hero to me before he ever did anything [in the war]”, she said. It was an honor to stand and pay silent tribute to this American hero.
Near Audie Murphy’s grave, were these memorials to the crew of the Challenger and Columbia
While walking through the cemetery, we had to stop and get a photo here:
We were on Lawton Avenue! Our town is named after General Henry Lawton. He fought for the Union in the Civil War.
Last summer, Lauren read about a Navy Admiral named Grace Hopper. Lauren was reminded of her when she saw her name in the visitor center at Arlington. She really wanted to go find her grave, and since it was her senior trip, we thought, sure, why not? Well, it turned out to be quite an ordeal. We walked and walked and walked, getting lost more than once. All the kids were tired, but poor Matt was on the verge of exhaustion. When Lauren was able to finally locate it, we all scurried over to see it. This is what Matthew did when we got there:
We laughed and laughed which probably wasn’t the most respectful thing to do in a cemetery, but we were a great distance away from any other people, so I don’t think we offended anyone. After the stress of hunting for this gravesite, and almost giving up, Matt brought us some welcome levity. (And don’t worry, he wasn’t putting all of his weight on the tombstone to damage it.)
As we were leaving, I noticed that small tree growing among all those headstones. It struck me as quite beautiful to see that tree thriving despite being surrounded by so much death.
As we headed out, Matt got one more ride. He would need to toughen up because there would be a lot more walking in his future.
I missed seeing Arlington National Cemetery when I went to D.C. as a teenager. I am so glad I got to see it this time, and that my children could experience it. America is certainly not a perfect nation, far from it. But our nation has been blessed to have so many courageous people who willingly gave their lives to preserve my freedom to type these words right now. I owe a debt to these brave men and women, and I was humbled to stand on that hallowed ground
Thanks for traveling with me,