Why a freezing cold visit to Arlington National Cemetery is worth every minute
A wind chill of sixteen degrees – that’s cold. Thank goodness the sun was popping out in fits and spurts from behind the clouds. However, complaining about the cold seemed ludicrous in context of our location – Arlington National Cemetery.
The sign in front of the visitors center reminds guests to be respectful while visiting this working cemetery. With multiple funerals taking place each week, tourists are mindful of the solemnity and show respect.
We visited on a Sunday morning in February. I’m glad my son and I had the good fortune to spend some time at this historic location.
We invested the modest sum to take the trolley tour of Arlington. In addition to being a nice warm vehicle we were enthralled by the tour guide’s narration and learned facts about the cemetery and those interred we wouldn’t have on a self-guided tour.
The trolley made 3 stops. Each stop we were allotted sufficient time for exploring.
Our first stop was at the eternal flame and the Kennedy graves. My son was intrigued by the story of the flame and how Jackie Kennedy had come up with the idea to keep it burning at the grave site of her husband, the assassinated President.
I impressed him with my knowledge of the time shortly after the President was buried when a group of Catholic school children accidentally extinguished the flame with holy water.
He utilized his reading skills to read me the inscriptions on the low marble wall near the grave site. The Kennedy graves were a peaceful stop on our tour and I was touched by his genuine interest despite his tender age.
The next stop we made was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The Amphitheater made of bright white marble with its columns is impressive. The tomb itself is a sobering sight.
Although we weren’t there in time to watch the guard changing, we did get to see a wreath laying ceremony. On such a bitter cold day the seriousness of the ceremony was palpable. Not a sound came from the crowd of onlookers – just the wind and crisp notes from the bugler’s horn as he played taps. Simply amazing.
Moving from the tomb we strolled the grounds surrounding the amphitheater and discovered the grave of Audie Murphy. I took a moment to explain to my son that Audie Murphy was one of the most decorated and famous soldiers of WWII. I also made a mental note to find the movie of his life when we got home.
Finally, our sojourn took us to Arlington House. The majestic home perched high on a hill gazing down on the Potomac River and the city of Washington, D.C. The view is spectacular.
The home that Robert E. Lee and his wife Mary Anna Custis Lee loved so dearly is open to tourists. It was during the Civil War the grounds of the home became a military cemetery. The Confederate General who could not take up his sword against his beloved Virginia never returned to Arlington House after the war.
Established in 1864, veterans and casualties from every American war are interred in Arlington National Cemetery. The national landmark is a stark reminder of the sacrifice so many brave men and women have made for our freedom.
Experiencing the dignified surroundings, viewing the rows of white marble head stones is something I recommend for every American.
It was a blustery day and when we returned to the car our noses were red and cold but we didn’t complain. The weighty importance of Arlington National Cemetery served to keep things in perspective.
As we crossed Memorial Bridge on our way home, I looked in the rear view mirror with gratitude in my heart and thought to myself, A little wind chill is nothing in comparison.
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