EA Tours Blog
Hello educational travelers!
I’m back with another blog post from our guest writer Jeff Stabins on the emotional Arlington National Cemetery. I hope you enjoy!
With Memorial Day just around the corner, student tours to Washington D.C. must include a short drive across the Potomac River to Arlington National Cemetery. For over one hundred and fifty years our nation has been honoring its fallen heroes with honor guard led burials at the United States military cemetery. Over four hundred thousand souls lie in simply marked graves covering 624 acres of hallowed ground. Most of the dead are from the Civil War onward although some have been reinterred from earlier wars.
The cemetery was established during the Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House, the estate of the family of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s wife who was a great-granddaughter of Martha Washington. The site was chosen because it was on high ground, free from floods and had a nice view of the capital. Denying General Lee its use after the war was a factor as well. The first military burial at Arlington was William Henry Christman on May 13, 1864. Not long after, President Lincoln arranged for the burial of the first African-American, an employee of his named William H. Johnson on whose gravestone was written “Citizen.” The cemetery remained segregated until President Harry S Truman issued an Executive Order in 1948.
Educational student tours to Arlington will see that it is divided into seventy sections, mostly according to the war or conflict in which the deceased fought. The newest section is devoted to military personnel killed in the Global War on Terror since 2001. There are also sections devoted to nurses, chaplains, confederates, and “Contrabands” who were former slaves. Students will marvel at the ceremony conducted every half hour by the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (the Old Guard) at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a part of the Arlington Memorial Amphitheater. Memorials honor the victims of the USS Maine, the Space Shuttle Challenger, and Pan Am Flight 103, among others.
The final stop for every student tour will undoubtedly be the gravesite of President John F. Kennedy and the eternal flame that serves to remind each of us of the ultimate price he, and all the honored dead at Arlington paid, for our freedom.
Until next time,