Veterans’ Day at Arlington

Veterans’ day is one of the few Federal holidays held on the actual date, even when it is not on a Monday, because it commemorates the specific occasion on  the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month when the armistice went into effect in World War I.   I went to Arlington Cemetery to think about what the day signifies.   

I used to pass through Arlington Cemetery on my bike when it was still possible to cut through Ft Meyer on the way to Washington.  After 9/11 this was closed off and they also banned bikes and runners in the cemetery.  I understand that but I don’t really agree.   It is not a sign of disrespect to pass through the place.  I made a special effort to pass through Arlington.  It was a little out of the way, but worth it.  When you see something regularly, it becomes more a part of your consciousness.   That is the way I also feel about museums, art and monuments in general.  These things should be part of your life, not place you go only on special occasions.

Arlington National Cemetery overlooks the Potomac and Washington.   Before the Civil War, it was Robert E. Lee’s estate.   Lee decided to resign his commission and offer his services to the State of Virginia.    The next day, he went to Richmond and never returned to Arlington.   The Union used it to bury the dead from local battles, which is how it started to be a cemetery.  Before the ceremony, I went up to see Robert E. Lee’s house, stopping off at the Kennedy memorial with the eternal flame.    Bobby Kennedy is there too.   Below is the eternal flame on Kennedy’s grave.

Below – the Kennedy monument is flat, so you cannot see it over the visitors.  The simplicity is impressive.

At 11am Dick Cheney laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown.    I couldn’t get close enough to see the ceremony.   In fact, I could not get a place generally in the amphitheater.   I don’t know when you had to show up, but it was earlier than I got there.    I really didn’t care if I could see Dick Cheney, but Bo Derek was the master of ceremonies.   I would have liked to get a better look at her.    All I could see were columns and the crowd as I hung around the periphery of the ceremonies.

Above is the entrance to Arlington.  On top of the hill is Robert E. Lee’s house.  In the foreground is the women’s monument.  

Above is the view out of Robert E. Lee’s window looking at a beautiful old cedar.

Above – some of the older parts of the cemetery have more elaborate monuments.   This one caught my eye.   It memorializes a Julius Szamwald.  He  was a Hungarian freedom fighter who came to the U.S., where he helped organize the 8th New York  infantry regiment and became a general during the Civil War.  He finished his career in the Foreign Service.   He did great a service to America, which put him in the company of the heroes around him.  All of them have their own stories.  

Above is the veteran color guards.

Above is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Above – Washington with the telephoto.  You can see the Lincoln Memorial over Memorial Bridge.  Of course, you recognize Washington Monument.