Someone suggested that I visit Arlington National Cemetery when I was in Virginia. My first reaction was silence, followed by “really’? a cemetery? I have to admit that very short conversation made me intrigued and curious about this place.
I googled things to do in Northern Virginia, and Arlington National Cemetery made it to the list of places to visit. I thought it must be something to be recommended in the list and by people who had been there.
So, why not. I am in the area anyways, no harm in checking the place. Besides, I had free time and it was a beautiful day. It was sunny with clear blue skies, and nice chilly weather, perfect for walking outdoors.
The visit took around 2 – 3 hours, on a Saturday morning. The cemetery is huge! It is indeed beautiful , well maintained and very quiet (as expected of course). For a minimum fee, you can take the trolley ride that goes around the area and stops at major points and must see sections of the cemetery.
We were not in a hurry that day, so we decided to explore the place by foot besides there were maps available at the information center, and they had marked most visited sections in the cemetery. It is a huge place, but walking gave us more time to stop longer in places we want to and we had more control of our time.
One of the first stop we did is the Kennedy’s grave sites. It was a short walk from the information center, and one of the most visited section. It is located below the foot of the Arlington House. Eternal Flame burns from the center of flat stone at the head of the grave, the area was barricaded with a chain so as not to encourage people to go inside to get closer to the flame.
Our next stop is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. Another busy and top visited area in the cemetery. The timing of our arrival was perfect, we were just in time for the changing of the guards. It occurs between the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Memorial Amphitheater, about 15-20 minutes walking from the information center. The times that the Changing of the Guard takes place are dependent on the time of year so better check the information center for details when you get there. It could be between every 30 or 60 minutes everyday or every 2 hours when the cemetery is close. During the changing of the guards, people flock around the area to watch the ceremony, so go early at least 10 minutes before to get a better spot.
The Memorial Amphitheater is another must see area in the cemetery. It is a short walk from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, it would be difficult to miss this place as it is huge.
This is where they held three major annual memorial services . They take place Easter, Memorial Day and Veterans Day and are sponsored by the U.S. Army Military District of Washington.
It was truly great experience visiting this place and I wouldn’t mind going back there again. I have to admit I am not a fan of visiting cemetery as the thought it self makes me scared, not of the place itself but of the fact that at some point in time, this where we will all end up. But on the other hand, it was a good reminder that nothing and no one is permanent in this world. Not to be melodramatic, but that visit reminded me to make the most of the time that I have, to live my life in a more meaningful way and to spend more time with people I love.
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