So many stories from American history are preserved at Arlington National Cemetery. Here are just a few of the many things you can see:
The Tomb of the Unknowns
Since 1948 the 3rd US Infantry, known as “The Old Guard,” has been guarding The Tomb of the Unknowns 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A path is well worn where the guards pace during their shift. The guard takes 21 steps from one side to the other, then faces the Tomb for 21 seconds, symbolic of the 21 gun salute in a military funeral.
The Tomb contains the remains of three unknown soldiers – one from World War I was interred in 1921, and in 1958 unknown soldiers from World War II and the Korean War were interred. A fourth veteran from Vietnam was interred in 1984 but was later identified and re-interred in another cemetery by his family.
Witnessing the Changing of the Guard Ceremony is an amazing and awe-inspiring experience. The ceremony takes place every 30 minutes from late spring to early fall, and every hour during the winter. It includes a ceremonial weapon inspection that is impressive in its precision and formality.
Mast of the USS Maine
The mast of the USS Maine is located a short distance from the Tomb of the Unknowns. The ship blew up in Havana Harbor in 1898 and was the catalyst for the Spanish-American War. The names of each of the 266 sailors killed in the explosion are listed around the base of the monument.
The remains of 163 of the USS Maine crew were removed from their watery graves and buried at Arlington in 1899.
John F. Kennedy Grave
The gravesite of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy is one of the most popular sites visited at Arlington. After his assassination in 1963, Kennedy was buried there. First Lady Jackie Kennedy and the President’s brother Robert Kennedy lit an eternal flame at the funeral.
It was Jackie’s idea, modeled after a similar tribute at the grave of an unknown soldier in France. The eternal flame is equipped with a sparking mechanism to immediately re-light the flame in case rain or wind extinguishes it.
The gravesite is surrounded by stone quarried from Cape Cod, near Kennedy’s home. More than 16 million people visited JFK’s gravesite in the first three years.