on March 28, 2013
Across the Potomac River, a short distance from the Lincoln Memorial is Arlington National Cemetery. The cemetery lays just outside of DC in Arlington, Virginia and it covers 624 acres and has over 400,000 graves. Veterans from every war since the Civil War have been interred here. The land that makes up Arlington National Cemetery once belonged to Robert E. Lee. George Washington’s grandson was the first to acquire the land and began constructing the Arlington House, which is still located on the grounds. Their only surviving adult child married Robert E. Lee. Because Robert E. Lee served in the Confederacy, the government confiscated some of his property as a burial site since the one in DC was quickly filling up. The Supreme Court ruled that the property was taken away from the Lee’s without due process and it was given back to them. However, the property was then sold back to the government which eventually became Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington National Cemetery is operated and maintained by the Department of the Army. However, the Arlington House, as a memorial to Robert E. Lee, is operated and maintained by the National Park Service. Tours of the cemetery and of the Arlington House are free; however, there is a small charge for parking. The cemetery does have a metro stop for those not wishing to drive there. Visitors may walk the grounds or there is a free shuttle that carries visitors to different places within the cemetery. Near the Visitor Center, the shuttle picks up visitors in front of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Memorial Avenue connects Arlington National Cemetery with the Arlington Memorial Bridge. The Woman’s memorial acts as ceremonial entrance for the cemetery. The memorial is then flanked by two wrought iron gates that provide entry into the cemetery. The north gate is called Schley Gate, after Admiral Winfield Scott Schley, hero of the Battle of Santiago during the Spanish-American War. The south gate is named for President Theodore Roosevelt. The cemetery is divided into 70 sections, with some of those sections reserved for certain burial groups. There is the Nurses Memorial, Chaplains Hill, an area for Confederate soldiers, and a section for all those killed in the War on Terror since 2001. Memorials are scattered throughout the cemetery to honor the deceased of some of the most painful and tragic events in American History. Section 59 honors the soldiers who were killed in Lebanon in the Beirut Barracks and a little distance away in Section 64 is the Pentagon Memorial. Designed in the shape of the Pentagon, it lists the names of all 184 victims of the Pentagon attack on September 11, 2001. Across the cemetery near the Arlington House is the memorial dedicated to the lives lost in Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland. In Section 24 near the Tomb of the Unknowns, stands a mast recovered from the wreckage of the USS Maine. The Maine blew up in Havana harbor which paved the way for America’s entry into the Spanish American War. Located right near it are memorials for the Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbia explosions. There are many more memorials throughout Arlington. Arlington National Cemetery is home to many notable Americans including two presidents. President William Howard Taft is buried near the Schley Gate at the front of the cemetery. Although he never actively served in the military, he was Secretary of War and presidents with no military service are entitled to be buried here because of their position as commander in chief. Section 45 is the Kennedy Family burial section and one of the most visited burial sites in Arlington. John F. Kennedy’s grave is marked by an eternal flame and his wife, Jacqueline is buried next to him. A short distance away is his two brothers, Robert F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy. Many more famous Americans from Supreme Court justices, Generals, politicians, and even some foreign military service members are interred here.
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