Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Arlington National Cemetery

The kids started back to school yesterday and since Richard had the day off we decided to take advantage of the quiet. Not in the way you'd think get your head out of the gutter.

We decided to drive to Arlington National Cemetery for the day. Richard has never been and it's been close to 10 yrs since I've been. I think we absolutely picked the wrong day though. It was so frickin cold... with the chill factor it was 18 degrees, and if that wasn't enough the wind coming off the Potomac was killer. Still, going to Arlington is amazing. I just think the next trip will be in warmer weather though.

If you've never been all those headstones lined up perfectly is even more impressive in person.

There are other headstones that are very large and impressive. Seemed to us that it was more of a "rank" thing. Seemed the bigger stones belonged to Brigadier Generals and officers of much higher rank.
Of course, one of the most visited places is the site where President John Kennedy is laid to rest. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is also laid to rest there now ~ as are a son, born premature and a still born daughter.
Son John Kennedy Jr had his ashes scattered off the coast of Martha's Vineyard.
I found it a bit unusual that Jacqueline would be buried there after her marriage to Aristotle Onassis but because she was again widowed at the time of her death, it was decided she would be placed next to her late husband by the eternal flame. A site she helped to design.
It is very sobering for a gal like me, raised in the Catholic church. While I was only 7 (and in the 2nd grade at St. James Catholic School ~ a school with primarily Irish priests and nuns) when the President was assassinated I so clearly remember being in class when another nun came in to tell us the news. Even at that early age I knew the world had changed.

I have to admit though, I was much more devastated when Bobby Kennedy was killed in 1968. Maybe because I was older and understood more, what was happening.
I don't know what happened to them, but at the time I kept a pile of newspaper clippings. I think maybe I used them in a school report a few years later.
As I stood at his burial site yesterday I couldn't help but cry. Maybe for what could have been. He most certainly would have won the election and been our president for the next 8 yrs. I think the country would have taken a much different turn. Who knows where we would be now? I guess we'll never know.

Jennifer actually met and spent the day with Ethel Kennedy while she was working for the Naples Daily News.   I was so excited for her.  Apparently Ethel took a shine to her and they walked arm in arm, chatting all the while.  Sure wish I had a picture of that!

Did you notice how unassuming his stone is. Really, that's all there is ~ a stone and a cross. Same for Edward's plot just a few feet away.

I believe both Robert and Edwards' children that have passed away are buried in a family plot in at Holyhood Cemetery in Brookline, Mass.
I think the most popular site though would have to be the "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier." Did you know it is guarded 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It is a great honor to be one of the "Sentinels" They patrol this 21 steps back and forth, night and day, rain or shine. Guarding of the tomb began in March of 1926 ~ during daylight hours only.  Too many visitors were using the original crypt as a picnic table!   In July of 1937 the patrol was changed to 24 hrs a day.  The original orders can be found here.

The soldiers who stand guard at the Tomb are hand picked and rigorously trained. Both men and women are eligible for this duty however only 20% of the soldiers who try out for this duty actually make it.
Another interesting fact is that there  are three Relief's assigned to the Tomb Guard Platoon, each consisting of 9 enlisted soldiers. The heights are equal on each Relief, with the tallest assigned to the 1st Relief.
1st Relief  6'2" to 6'4"
2nd Relief 6' to 6'2"
3rd Relief 5'11" to 6'

They do change guards every hour on the hour and that is not to be missed. There is something about the solemness of the ceremony ~ honoring those that not only have given their lives for our country, but remain unknown ~ it's a privilege to be able to pay homage by being there. And believe me, the guards take this duty very seriously.
The tomb bears the inscription "Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.

This is me waiting for the ceremony to begin ~ at this point I don't think I could feel my face anymore. And no, I don't normally wear my scarf (doncha love the orange?) over my head but it was seriously the only protection I had from the crazy wind that was going on. To say I was not prepared was an understatement. Silly me didn't even have gloves with me!
This is the view of DC from the cemetery. Beautiful isn't it.  I think it's one of my favorite places to visit.  To be able to see so much history first hand is amazing.
We did drive through the city before we came home. Richard had not seen the new Martin Luther King memorial so we wanted to see that.
One last thing I thought you'd find interesting were these stones we saw on several of the gravestones.  When we got home I did do a little research on this.  It's primarily rooted in the Jewish faith although, like most customs, has run over into other cultures as well.  It's a Mitzvah ~ or an act of kindness.  They are put there by family or friends as a sign of respect, signifying that the site is being cared for and the deceased, honored.    Very touching.   All in all a very peaceful day ~ spent with the man I love. 


CritterLady said...

I would love to see this someday. When I first heard this song, and especially after seeing the video (link below), I added it to my bucket list. I guess with me moving to Vegas this spring it's gonna be harder to accomplish. Thanks for sharing the experience.

CritterLady said...

Sorry, looks like I don't know how to post a link. Just go to youtube and type in "Morning Breaks in Arlington" in the search box. It's sung by the 2nd Generation Osmonds, and I promise you'll love it.

Michele said...

Could've been colder - like TODAY! Sadly, we've lived near DC for almost 15 years and I haven't been to Arlington.

Mom Taxi Julie said...

Sounds like a nice COLD day! I've never been to DC, maybe some day!

jillytacy said...

I have never been to DC area. I would love to see all of this some day.
The orange scarf is lovely and you look like a million bucks in it! You don't even look cold, just glamorous!