I DON’T FANCY passing by cemeteries, much less visit one, but I did just that on this date in 1999. But it wasn’t just any cemetery. It was the Arlington National Cemetery, one of the better known cemeteries in the US and a tourist site in Virginia.
According to its 1999 brochure (the statistics would have changed over time)… “Over 245,000 servicemen and their family members rest on the 612 acres of Virginia land across the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial. About 20 burials are conducted every weekday. All those who are remembered here have this in common: service to their country… A large part of the grounds was once the property of Mrs. Robert E. Lee. In the early days of the Civil War, the Lee’s home, Arlington House, was confiscated for use as the Federal headquarters for the defense of Washington.”
At the Tomb of the Unknowns, managed to witness the hourly changing of the guard. Its brochure provided the following information: “An inscription on the white marble sarcophagus of the World War I soldier entombed here in 1921 reads “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God”. Joining their comrade, unknown servicemen from World War II, Korea and Vietnam, lie in crypts beneath slabs flush with the terrace paving.”
(L) At the gravesite of 35th US President John F. Kennedy who was assassinated in 1963 (the only other US President buried there is William Howard Taft who died in 1930). At the head of the grave is the Eternal Flame which was created at the proposal of Mrs. Kennedy. She was buried next to him in 1994; (R) On the hilltop is Arlington House, restored memorial to Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
JFK’s famous quote is also immortalised here: “And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” Visible from here is the Washington Monument.