A vis­i­tors guide to Arlington Ceme­tery

A vis­i­tors guide to Arlington Ceme­tery

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Beth J. Harpaz

ARLINGTON, VA. >> Arlington Na­tional Ceme­tery, fi­nal rest­ing place for thou­sands of Amer­i­can sol­diers and oth­ers who have served and sac­ri­ficed, isn’t just about the his­tory of war.

Yes, the rows and rows of white head­stones tell war sto­ries across the gen­er­a­tions, hon­or­ing young sol­diers killed in ac­tion as well as veter­ans who lived into old age long past their mil­i­tary ser­vice.

And yes, there are me­mo­ri­als here mark­ing tragic moments in Amer­i­can his­tory, in­clud­ing a trib­ute to the as­tro­nauts who per­ished when the Space Shut­tle Chal­lenger ex­ploded and the eter­nal flame at the grave of Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy.

But while tourists make up many of the 3 mil­lion to 4 mil­lion peo­ple who visit Arlington Na­tional Ceme­tery each year, there are plenty of mourn­ers here, too. More than 25 fu­ner­als are held here each week­day and an­other half-dozen on Satur­days.

Here are some ba­sics for plan­ning a visit to see some of Arlington’s most no­table sites while hon­or­ing those buried here.

Si­lence and re­spect

Chances are as you wan­der around, you’ll see some vis­i­tors kneel­ing by a grave or leav­ing a note or flower to re­mem­ber a loved one. You may see a grave­side ser­vice un­der­way in the dis­tance, hear a bu­gle play­ing “Taps” or be star­tled by ri­fle shots, cus­tom­ary for mil­i­tary fu­ner­als. Or you may see six horses slowly and solemnly pulling a cais­son bear­ing a flag-draped cof­fin for a full­honors fu­neral.

Signs around the ceme­tery bear the words “Si­lence and Re­spect,” to give mourn­ers space and pri­vacy.

Plan­ning a visit

Arlington Na­tional Ceme­tery is open daily 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Oc­to­berMay (and un­til 7 p.m., April-Septem­ber). Ad­mis­sion is free.

Stop in the wel­come cen­ter for a free map and ad­vice on find­ing sites of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est. The ceme­tery is a square mile, so al­low sev­eral hours for your visit. Be pre­pared for hills and lots of


Hop-on, hop-off trol­leys with nar­rated tours of­fer an over­view of the grounds with stops at some of the most-vis­ited sites. Tick­ets are $12 (dis­counts for chil­dren, veter­ans, mil­i­tary per­son­nel and se­niors).

The Washington, D.C., Metro­rail blue line has a stop at Arlington Na­tional Ceme­tery. If you’re driv­ing, an on­site park­ing garage is ac­ces­si­ble from Memo­rial Av­enue.

Robert E. Lee and John F. Kennedy

Arlington House, also known as the Robert E. Lee Memo­rial, is on a hill­top over­look­ing the Kennedy gravesite. Stand­ing in front of the house, you can see down­town Washington with the Washington Mon­u­ment’s white obelisk in the dis­tance.

The Lee house, run by the Na­tional Park Ser­vice, has fas­ci­nat­ing con­nec­tions to Ge­orge Washington and the Civil War. The land where the ceme­tery now sits was orig­i­nally a 19th-cen­tury slave plan­ta­tion owned by Ge­orge Washington’s adopted grand­son, Ge­orge Washington Parke Custis. Custis’ daugh­ter mar­ried Robert E. Lee, the leader of the Con­fed­er­ate Army. Dur­ing the Civil War, Union troops oc­cu­pied the es­tate and be­gan bury­ing sol­diers there. Lee’s fam­ily never re­turned, and in 1882 the U.S. Supreme Court or­dered the gov­ern­ment to com­pen­sate them. Two cab­ins be­hind Arlington House tell the story of African-Americans — both en­slaved and free — who lived and worked there.

The Kennedy gravesite has mark­ers for the slain pres­i­dent, his widow, Jac­que­line Kennedy Onas­sis, and other fam­ily mem­bers. JFK’s fa­mous quote, “Ask not what your coun­try can do for you, ask what you can do for your coun­try,” is en­graved nearby.

Also of in­ter­est

Arlington Na­tional Ceme­tery is dot­ted with me­mo­ri­als. They in­clude mon­u­ments and mark­ers hon­or­ing veter­ans of var­i­ous bat­tles and wars, vic­tims of dis­as­ters like the sink­ing of the USS Maine and the down­ing of Pan Am Flight 103, and oth­ers who served or sac­ri­ficed, from Gold Star moth­ers to the Coast Guard.

The Tomb of the Un­known Sol­dier is guarded by a march­ing uni­formed sen­tinel 24 hours a day, with a chang­ing of the guard on the hour.

Many fa­mous in­di­vid­u­als are buried here, from Hol­ly­wood ac­tors to U.S. sen­a­tors. But one of the most asked-about sites in the last few months has been the grave of Capt. Hu­mayun Khan, whose fa­ther spoke at the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion in Au­gust. Khan was killed dur­ing the Iraq War, and the story of his im­mi­grant Mus­lim fam­ily and their loss be­came an is­sue in the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. Wel­come cen­ter staff are ac­cus­tomed to giv­ing di­rec­tions to his gravesite, No. 7986 in sec­tion 60, where vis­i­tors of­ten leave flow­ers and notes.

Most Arlington graves are marked with crosses, but other sym­bols, like the six-pointed Jewish star and a wheel rep­re­sent­ing the Bud­dhist faith, can be seen. Khan’s head­stone bears a Mus­lim cres­cent and star.


ARLINGTON NA­TIONAL CEME­TERY: http://www.ar­ling­ton­ceme­tery.mil/Visit ARLINGTON HOUSE: Home of Robert E. Lee: https://www.nps.gov/arho/ in­dex.htm

ANC EXPLORER APP: http://www.ar­ling­ton­ceme­tery.mil/Ex­plore/Find-aGrave TROL­LEY TOUR: https:// www.trust­ed­tours.com/ store/arlington-na­tion­al­ceme­tery-tour.aspx


In this file photo, fall leaves lay among the grave­stones at Arlington Na­tional Ceme­tery in Arlington, Va. The ceme­tery gets be­tween 3 mil­lion and 4 mil­lion vis­i­tors a year.


In this file photo, a cais­son car­ries the re­mains of Army Pfc. Tra­maine J. Billingsley dur­ing burial ser­vices at Arlington Na­tional Ceme­tery in Arlington, Va. A horse-drawn cais­son is pro­vided by the U.S. mil­i­tary for veter­ans who are el­i­gi­ble for full-hon­ors fu­ner­als at Arlington Na­tional Ceme­tery.


In this file photo, a Tomb guard walks at the Tomb of the Un­known Sol­dier in Arlington Na­tional Ceme­tery in Arlington, Va. The tomb is one of the ceme­tery’s most-vis­ited sites.


This photo shows vis­i­tors to Arlington Na­tional Ceme­tery in Arlington, Va., at the gravesite of Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy. In the dis­tance at right, the Washington Mon­u­ment in Washington, D.C., can be seen.

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