Arlington Cemetery: Touching Tributes

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.

We were at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to see the changing of the guard.

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.

11 Responses to Arlington Cemetery: Touching Tributes

  1. thesmittenimage says:

    Lovely photos, Sandra.

    The placing of stones to mark a visit is a Jewish tradtion. You can see that the tombstone on the right has a Star of David on it. I’ll paste a quote from an online source for you.

    “Following Jewish tradition, a pebble on a headstone symbolizes the continuing presence of love and memories, which are as strong and durable as a rock. Placing a pebble on the gravestone is a way of honoring the deceased, as well as a way to show that family and friends have visited the grave.”

    There are more beliefs about the tradation than that. But that, along with your own thoughts about it sums it up well enough for me.

  2. Sandra says:

    Hilary — At the time someone mentioned that that was especially a Jewish tradition, but i didn’t remember enough about what they said to quote them. So thank you for filling in the details. 🙂

  3. Linda says:

    I had never heard about that Jewish tradition of laying rocks on the tombstone. I’m so glad Hilary added that piece of information.

    As for the kids remembering the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier…I know it made a lasting impression on me when I saw it many, many years ago. I’m sure their participation in the laying of the wreath will enhance their memories of the experience.

  4. Sandra says:

    I hope so, Linda. Unfortunately though, I would guess that Marilyn and I got alot more out of it than they did. It is so much easier to “get” and appreciate historical sites at this age than it is at theirs, don’t you think?

  5. mary says:

    Yes, I think you are right Sandy about “getting” it now rather than when I was a Senior in High School, we went to DC on our Senior Trip. I remember climbing the Washington Monument and George Washington’s home the most. Otherwise, shopping at Macy’s and all the hotels and good food…:) I think I need to go back….

  6. Sandra says:

    Good idea, Mary. Maybe a little less shopping and a little more absorbing history this time? 🙂

  7. carlahoag says:

    The only time I’ve seen the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was when Johnson was president and I remember very well being there. I’m sure there are lots of things about Arlington National Cemetery that I’d understand and appreciate more now that I’m an adult and have studied enough history to go with what I saw, but the scene of all those crosses has stayed with me. And the feeling of it being hallowed ground.

    What an incredible honor fit was for those students to participate in the ceremony!

  8. Sandra says:

    Carla — I’m so glad I finally got to see the sites in DC. And I truly do think I enjoyed it much more than I would have when I was very young. 🙂

  9. Dr. Vincent Malfitano

    Arlington Cemetery: Touching Tributes | Add Humor and Faith….mix well

  10. Saleh Stevens

    Arlington Cemetery: Touching Tributes | Add Humor and Faith….mix well

  11. Arthur Falcone

    Arlington Cemetery: Touching Tributes | Add Humor and Faith….mix well

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