It was so interesting to me to see the reality of places which I had previously only seen in pictures while I visited Washington, DC.
One of those places was Arlington Cemetery. I only remember seeing pictures of Arlington that were of a flat field filled with row after row of white crosses. A very striking picture and I can understand why that would be an appropriate photo to represent Arlington.
But I was surprised when I saw it in person and realized that it is actually quite hilly. I found it much more beautiful in reality, with not only a more interesting landscape than the flat I had envisioned, but with trees everywhere I looked, many flowering early because of our unusual Spring.
One of the facts I learned while I was there was that originally the markers were as varied as any other cemetery. But at some point it was decided that no matter how rich or poor were the people who had served our country who were buried there, they all deserved the same respect, so from then on simple white crosses were used for everyone.
It was arranged ahead of time that four students from the group of eighth graders we were with, would participate in a wreath-laying ceremony. I would think that that will be memorable for all of the class, not just those who participated.
If I ever knew, I had forgotten, that the remains of the Unknown from the Viet Nam War have been removed because DNA has allowed the military to identify that soldier. And I was told that because DNA can now be used to identify remains, there won’t be any more burials with the Unknowns.
The viewing of so many graves was, of course, sobering, as well as the ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, but I think the sight that touched me most was this:
Old tombstones with rocks or sometimes coins laid on them. It’s one thing to look at many graves of men and women who sacrificed for my freedom but whom I did not know, but quite another to look at a tombstone that has been somehow singled out like this. I could picture a person standing at one of those tombstones laying a token on it while picturing what the person was like and remembering family stories about them. It made the whole experience feel a little more personal for me.
If you haven’t visited Arlington, I recommend it.