Photography, Road Trips

Touring Arlington National Cemetery

If you know the region, you’re not at all surprised to see a photograph from Arlington National Cemetery that includes the Washington Monument. But for people like me who grew up more than 600 miles away, for whom this cemetery was only ever seen through television on a significant anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s death, it was a surprise.

Arlington National Cemetery

Indeed, Arlington National Cemetery is on one side of the Potomac River, and the National Mall is on the other. The cemetery is just a mile from the Lincoln Memorial. The Arlington Memorial Bridge connects the two sites.

Arlington National Cemetery

It’s a truly lovely cemetery of gently rolling hills. I could tell it had been there for a long time as the terrain looked natural. Today, building such a place would certainly begin with big earth-moving equipment to create a desired landscape. Anyway, I was right: veterans have been buried here since the Civil War.

Arlington National Cemetery

Not just any veteran can be buried here. Anyone killed in active duty can, but beyond that the rules are fairly restrictive to honor the limited space.

Arlington National Cemetery

It’s staggering how many of these little grave markers there are, row after row in every direction as far as you can see.

Arlington National Cemetery

We visited just before sunset. The low sun created golden light and long shadows. It was an ideal time of day to visit; it created a reverent atmosphere.

Arlington National Cemetery

Behind the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is the stunning Arlington Memorial Ampitheater, completed in 1920.

Arlington National Cemetery

Its classical style was also enhanced by the setting sun.

Arlington National Cemetery

The cemetery was closing as we reached the last place we wanted to see: the eternal flame at John F. Kennedy’s burial site. This was just after we saw the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, by which I was so moved that I could not find it in me to photograph Kennedy’s grave. Instead, I turned around and photographed the cemetery as it led away from there.

Arlington National Cemetery

The trees, freshly flowered, were a lovely counterpoint to how I felt: struck by all the loss families had suffered across the generations as their children fought for their country.

Arlington National Cemetery

Canon PowerShot S95

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15 thoughts on “Touring Arlington National Cemetery

  1. Heide says:

    I had no idea that veterans had been buried in Arlington since the Civil War, Jim. That makes it even more poignant somehow, when you consider the generations of sacrifice and loss this place represents. But it does make you wonder whether we’ll ever be able to escape war and its human toll …

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  2. Many people may not know that the grounds that Arlington is now on land that once belonged to Robert E Lee. The estate was seized and later purchased by the US. Putting the Cemetery there was a conscious plan to make the state uninhabitable by the Lees if they should ever regain control.

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  3. DougD says:

    Very cool photos. I hope to visit there someday, although my great Uncle Arch the WW2 carrier navigator is buried locally his ship’s Captain is buried at Arlington.

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  4. Tonya Cline says:

    Been there many times since I was a little girl, did you observe the Changing of the Guard? Not sure if my memory is right but I thought they told us on a field trip that the head stones where set a certain way so no matter how you looked at them they where in a straight line. Awesome pictures!!!

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    • We did watch the Changing of the Guard! It’s quite a sight.

      I noticed a strong tendency for the gravestones to line up perfectly no matter the angle. It was cool.

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