Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Our Visit to Arlington Cemetery--"Hallowed Grounds"

We took at trip over the weekend to my homeland, Northern Virginia.  And since Scott had never been to Arlington Cemetery, that was our first stop!  I hadn't been there since I was a very little girl.

Upon entering the National Cemetery, we were met with this sign.  I was very touched by the level of respect that was demanded of us and also by the unashamed religiosity to call the cemetery "hallowed grounds."  And truly it was hallowed!  I felt the reverence immediately upon entering.

My heart was further touched when a group of World War II veterans was being welcomed to the cemetery.  They posed in front of statues.

Each one wore a yellow sash.  Their families were with them.  And everyone was very proud and solemn.

Even granddaughters were taking photos as they were given seats on a special tour bus.  Wheelchairs stowed carefully.  It really was a sacred procession.

I knew I would be overwhelmed by the sheer number of gravestones.  I planned on that.  I prepared for it.  But no amount of preparation can really prepare you for it.

The rows of white headstones go off in every direction for as far as the eye can see.

And Arlington Cemetery is full of trees and hills and you have perfect knowledge that they continue on even after all the eye can see!

As we walked along the paths, we saw a worker carefully power washing each and every stone. Making sure that lichens and moss and mold don't grow across these.  I was touched by the care and consideration he gave to each and every stone.

Every little while, we came across a gravestone with flowers placed in front of it.

This grave also had a stone placed on top.  It is a Jewish tradition to place a stone on top of the headstone as a sign of respect and to show that they have visited.

In a corner of the visitor's center, there was a sign talking about some of the trees in the cemetery.  The cemetery is so old and so cared for, that some of the trees growing there are "state champions" in tree contests!  (I didn't know there even were tree pageants!  But I'm perfectly willing to admit they are stunningly beautiful!)

We didn't find the champion trees, but many others were gorgeous and carefully tagged.

Kind of fun to see that the woodpeckers had been to this tree!  Just like most of the trees in our yard at home.

Some trees had been specifically planted to honor people.

It is a lovely tradition to plant a tree to honor someone!

After a bit, we came to The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  We were just in time for the "wreath ceremony."

The trumpet player was very talented and it made me cry to hear the sacred silence only broken by his beautiful and mournful playing of taps.

Everything was done in the strictest of order and reverence.

When the new wreath was placed, it was nice to take a moment and look out over our Nation's Capital in the distance.  I felt extremely patriotic and proud.

A few minutes later, there was a "changing of the guard."  Our friends with yellow banners had caught up with us and the honorable veteran in the wheelchair didn't get his cellphone out for a picture---he took off his hat to show respect.

There is a special walkway where the guard patrols.  It was interesting to see their special shoes that make a loud clicking sound when they tap their heels together.  It was also touching to see how worn their pathway was and where they stood at attention.

The door to the visitor's center at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier had beautiful brass work.

I was interested to know how long the permanent monument has been there---and also that the stone carvers were the same ones that made the Lincoln Memorial statue!

It was no easy task to place the 50 ton monument in 1932!

Our next stop was up the hill to Kennedy's grave.

My mother has a photograph of me at age 3 standing in front of this same "eternal flame."

In a large circular monument, there were various quotes from President Kennedy.  I found the one that is most treasured in our family.  My mother stood in the freezing snow to hear Kennedy's inaugural address in 1961.  After she heard these words, she and my father joined the Peace Corps and served in the Philippines!

Our next stop was "Arlington House."  All the way to the top of the hill.  The flags were at half-mast because of the Florida terror attack.

Arlington House was the home of Robert E. Lee.  But he didn't own it.  His wife did.  He was married to the step-great-grand daughter of George Washington!  The original grounds of this estate are what make up Arlington Cemetery.

The view from the steps of Arlington house of our Nation's Capital was absolutely stunning!  The Lincoln Memorial, The Washington Monument, The Capitol Building.  Even the Jefferson Memorial was there---though I couldn't get them all in one photo.

Inside, the tour guides were marvelous.  Making sure we asked questions and then giving us lovely stories of the family and extended family and the Civil War and everything!

George Washington Parke Custis (step-grandson to George Washington) built the house.  He wanted it to be a memorial to George Washington who had raised him after his father died.

My favorite part was his artist's table and easel.

He had painted murals in the house as well as many of the other hanging paintings.

Scott loved the arboretum off the back.

There was an enormous evergreen tree in the backyard.

It had remarkable pine cones.

And a metal tap in the trunk (see center bottom.)  I couldn't find anyone to tell me more about it. Is there some kind of evergreen syrup?!

In the slave quarters there was a beautiful spinning wheel!  Also, my favorite thing!

And an old well in the courtyard.

Grape vines and raspberries in the garden.

Near the back of the garden was a small building devoted to Robert E. Lee.  It told about how he left an honored career in the United States military and joined with the South to fight the Civil War.

Eventually, of course, having to surrender at Appomattox Court House.

Here is a portrait of his wife, Mary Anna Custis Lee.  Great-granddaughter of George Washington.

Then it was time to start our great descent down the hill.  We took a different path than how we came up.  Down a long and winding and somewhat endless stairway.

On the way down the great hill, we stopped at the tomb of President Lincoln's son and his wife.

 President Lincoln is buried in Illinois.

As we left through these magnificent gates, I could hear a gun salute off in the distance for yet another soldier's funeral and burial.  So many lives given for our freedom!  So many feelings of gratitude welled in my heart.  So much patriotism and love for my country!

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