A walk around Arlington

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Though I’ve visited Arlington National Cemetery countless times since I was a kid, it’s a place that can’t fail to move you. From the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns to the even rows of tombstones stretching into the horizon, Arlington makes an impression on the psyche. Starkly, clearly, it symbolizes sacrifice.

But it’s not a depressing place. A cold place. More than 4 million people visit Arlington annually, and the famous cemetery? Well, it’s always busy. Children toddle along the pathways, clutching the hands of sweaty parents; tourists flock around statues, photographing stones and tree-lined paths. Eighth-graders in matching T-shirts board trams with their “I ❤ D.C." bags, shushed by harried chaperones.

And the views! As I'm often there with our photo tours, who can overlook the views? Climbing to Arlington House, once the home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, the city of Washington stretches out spectacularly. City architect Pierre L’Enfant is buried there on the hill overlooking his vision. Winding up the paths away from the Eternal Flame still burning for President Kennedy, you may find yourself . . . alone.

But not really alone.

For a large stretch of land serving as the final resting place for some of our nation’s brave women and men, it’s really a place that celebrates life. I feel humbled, small, when visiting . . . but not sad, somehow. Reflective, maybe? Pensive?

And tired, too. It’s huge.

I’ll never see it all.

But we’ll keep trying.


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11 thoughts on “A walk around Arlington

  1. My father is buried there, and I always enjoy visiting – particularly around holidays when the graves are decorated with American flags. (I never go during the winter, when Christmas wreaths are laid at every headstone.)

  2. I’ve never been there, even though I’ve been in the area several times. I keep swearing “next time” I’ll visit.

  3. I loved visiting Arlington when we were in DC a few years ago. It’s such a beautiful and serene place, but there was no way we could see everything in just one visit.

  4. I loved visiting Arlington! It felt kind of strange at first to visit a cemetery, but it really is a lovely place. It was one of the highlights of our DC trip!

  5. Arlington is one of my favorite places to go! I agree that it’s not a cold/sad/depressing place, but a place of reflection and remembrance.

    And I completely second the feeling of ‘tired’. You could walk for days in the cemetary!

  6. Arlington was something we didn’t get to see when in DC that we regret not doing and look forward to visiting some day when we return.

  7. Everytime we come to DC, the husband and I talk about visiting this cemetery. It just never happens though. I’m hoping to come by again sometime during the summer and visit. I’ve heard so much about this place.

  8. When I was in Paris, I remember going for a run in the cemeteries and even checking out Le pere la chaise for the famous tombs of Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrisson. But in India, cemeteries are considered unholy places, not someplace to visit. Only when someone dies, do the men (only men) visit it for cremation.

  9. This is a great description of the cemetery. I’ve been many times as well and am continuously amazed by its size and beauty. Most people can’t help but be moved when they visit, even the 8th graders in their t-shirts! 🙂

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