Photojournalistic Journey Through Arlington National Cemetery

20 Aug
2010

On a recent trip to Washington, DC, we made it a point to visit the Arlington National Cemetery (America’s most revered burial ground) and would like to share with you the journey, through photos and videos we took, showing the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns, also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a monument dedicated to American servicemen who have died without their remains being identified, JFK’s burial site and Arlington House.

You will also learn some American history in the process, as we have added as much information as we could about everything you’re about to see.

The following few shots are of the headstones, which are a sea of white in every direction. They all line up in a row perfectly no matter where you are standing. They are suppose to represent soldiers standing at attention, and to save space. Arlington National is still an active cemetery, holding anywhere from 20 to 30 funerals daily.

They say the cemetery will run out of room by the year 2060, however they have recently or are currently trying to purchase additional land. All these headstones shot were taking as we were cruising along on our mobile tour.

These shots were taken while on foot.

Interesting photo, as the tree looks like it’s been photoshopped in.

The first stop major stop on the tour taken was the burial site of President John F. Kennedy.

John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame No headstones for JFK, Jackie or Patrick (they all lay side by side). They instead, have the Eternal Flame. The Army Corps of Engineers was studying the installation of a permanent flame just a week after Kennedy’s burial. But the Army was also considering removing the flame, as no such memorials were permitted in Arlington National Cemetery. On December 3, 1963, the Army concluded that the Kennedy plot was not part of the official burial section of Arlington National Cemetery, and agreed to continue to allow an eternal flame.

John F. Kennnedy and Jacqueline B. Kennedy

Jacqueline B. Kennedy

Kennedy’s famous “As not, what your country can do for you” quote inscribed onto one of the seven granite blocks in the elliptical plaza.

Next stop was the Tomb of the Unknowns.

It is considered one of the highest honors to serve as a ceremonial guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Fewer than 20% of all volunteers are accepted for training and of those only a fraction pass training to become full-fledged Tomb Guards. The sentinels do not wear rank insignia on their uniforms so that they do not outrank the Unknowns, whatever their rank may have been. Soldiers serving in other roles, like Relief Commander and Assistant Relief Commander, do wear insignia of their rank when changing the guard only. They have a separate uniform worn when they actually guard the Unknowns or are “Posted”.

Walking the Mat

There is a meticulous ritual the guard follows when watching over the graves:

  1. The soldier walks 21 steps across the Tomb. This alludes to the 21-gun salute, which is the highest honor given to any military or foreign dignitary in America. His weapon is always on the shoulder opposite the Tomb (i.e., on the side of the gallery watching the ritual).
  2. On the 21st step, the soldier turns and faces the Tomb for 21 seconds.
  3. The soldier then turns to face the other way across the Tomb and changes his weapon to the outside shoulder.
  4. After 21 seconds, the first step is repeated.

This is repeated until the soldier is relieved of duty at the Changing of the Guard. The unknown soldier was actually identified. DNA testing proved the remains that were buried in the Tomb of the Unknowns were those of United States Air Force First Lieutenant Michael Joseph BVlassie, who was shot down during  the Vietnam War.

Video Part One: Beginning speech.

YouTube Preview Image

Video Part Two YouTube Preview Image

After the ceremony, we entered the Tomb of the Unkowns “building” and we spied a perfect photo opportunity. A flag hung from the ceiling near the entrance from an adjacent wall and this photo was taken from a position directly underneath the flag. It’s our favorite photo from the entire trip.

Also taken inside the same building was this Vietnam tribute plaque.

The “theater” area at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Reminds me of Rome. Everything you see is finished in marble, except the flooring, obviously.

Just outside this building (in the front) are three memorial “grave” sites.

Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial for the disaster that occurred on January 28, 1986, where the Challenger broke apart, literally 73 seconds after lift-off. The cause of the disintergration of the Challenger was the failure of an O-ring seal in the right solid rocket booster after lift-off, and the subsequent structural failure of the external fuel tank.

Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe (scheduled to be the first teacher in space), Gregory Jarvis, and Judith Resnik were onboard and tragically lost their lives. This way before the internet’s time, however 85 percent of Americans surveyed, had heard the news within an hour of the accident.

Space Shuttle Columbia Memorial for the disaster that occurred on February 1, 2003, when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas. The loss of Columbia was a result of damage sustained during launch when a piece of foam insulation the size of a small briefcase broke off the Space Shuttle external fuel tank. This tank contains the liquid hydrogen fuel and liquid oxygen oxidizer. The Shuttle’s thermal protection system (TPS), which protects it from heat generated within the atmosphere during re-entry.

Crew members David M. Brown, Rick D. Husband, Laurel Clark, Kalpana Chawla, Michael P. Anderson, William C. McCool and Ilan Ramon tragically lost their lives.

Iran Hostage Rescue Attempt Memorial 52 US citizens were held hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979 to January 20, 1981, after a group of Islamist students and militants took over the Embassy of the United States in support of the Iranian Revolution.

This “Third Infantry Division U.S. Army Rock of the Marine” was nearby…

The third and last stop on the mobile tour was Arlington House, also know as the home of Robert E. Lee. The inside held nothing of photographic interest so instead we meadered outside checking out names on headstones, the nature surrounding them and snapped things of interest.

But first, here is a bit of history about Robert E. Lee, his home, and how Arlington cemetery came to be, as told by the tour guide.

Robert E. Lee was a career United States Army officer and lived with his wife Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee (great granddaughter of Martha Washington, and step-great-granddaughter of George Washington) in Arlington (in the house upon which the cemetery now lies.) But it wasn’t a cemetery at this time. At the beginning of the Civil War, President Lincoln asked if he’d take command of the Union Army, however, with Virginia being his home state, Lee seceded from the Union and joined the Confederacy, leaving his home and land behind him.

After a time, the Union’s Army soldiers we dying faster than they could find a spot to lay them to rest and were simply buried where they had fallen. The Union wanted to take over Lee’s property and build a cemetery there but couldn’t just take the land from him. What they did instead was a bit sneaky. They levied taxes on his property and told the Lee family that his wife Mary Anna had to come down and pay the taxes herself, in person, (all of $97 and change) or else they’d lose the property.

Mrs. Lee, not wanting to cross over into enemy territory, send a messenger over with the fee. However, because Mrs. Lee did not come herself, in person, they refused the payment and the Union seized the property and turned it into the cemetery we see today.

Now back to photos.

Huge marble columns at the entrance to the Arlington House…

The following monument reads:

Beneath this stone, repose the bones of two thousand one hundred and elven unknown soldiers, gathered after the war, form the fields of the Bull Run, and the route to Rappahannock. Their remains could not be identified, but their names and deaths are recorded in this archives of their country: and it’s grateful citizens honor them as of their noble army of martyrs, may they rest in peace. September A.D. 1866

The Rappahannock was the site of early settlements in the Virginia Colony, and, later, it was at the center of battle in the American Civil War.

August Valentine Kautz Grave

History of August Valentine Kautz’s

Born at Province of Baden, Germany near Pforzheim, January 5, 1828. In the year of his birth, or soon thereafter, parents emigrated to Brown County, Ohio, via Baltimore, Maryland. He attended school in Georgetown, Ohio, and during the first year of Mexican War served as a Private, 1st Ohio Infantry. A Year after discharge, he was appointed to the United States Military Academy, where he graduated in the class of 1852. He served for number of years in Pacific Northwest, where was twice wounded in operations against Indians.

With the reorganization of the Regular Army in May 1861 he was made a Captain of the new 6th United States Cavalry, and served in the Washington, DC defense and most creditably in McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign. In September 1862, he was appointed Colonel of the 2nd Ohio Cavalry Volunteer Regiment and was sent to Fort Scott on the Kansas frontier.

In the following year, after some duty in command of Camp Chase, Ohio, he took part in the pursuit and capture of Confederate General John Hunt Morgan in the course of latter’s raid into Kentucky and Indiana. From April 1864 March 1865 he commanded a Division of Cavalry in Benjamin F. Butler’s Army of the James, having been made Brigadier General of Volunteers on May 7, 1864. He took part in a number of operations against various Confederate lines of supply coming into Richmond and Petersburg, including the fight at Ream’s Station on June 29, 1864, during James Harrison Wilson’s raid.

In none of these actions was he substantially successful, and in March 1865 was shifted to command of a Division of Negro troops in XXV Corps at the head of which he entered the Confederate capital on April 3, 1865. In May and June he had dubious distinction of being one of members of military commission which acted out farce of “trying” the conspirators in assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

With brevets of Major General in both the Regular Army and the Volunteers, he became Lieutenant Colonel of 34th US Infantry in 1866, Colonel of the 8th US Infantry in 1874, and Brigadier General, US Army, 1891. Meanwhile, he commanded effectively at various Indian posts on frontier and wrote several military treatises.

And to cap off this photojournalistic post, here is a view of Washington, D.C. from the hills of Arlington Cemetery and the American Flag.

If  you missed our post on our visit to the National Gallery of Art, here is part one and part two, where you can see famous paintings by Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet and many others.

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