Service and Sacrifice at Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

One of my favorite places to go in Washington, D.C. is Arlington National Cemetery. Each tombstone or grave marker tells a story that humbles me. While the cemetery is often quiet and tranquil, it is also still an active cemetery so it is not uncommon to see or hear a funeral in progress.

I love history so it fascinates me to look at the rows of white headstones and think about the fact that each one of them symbolizes an individual with their own story. I admire the representations of service and sacrifice surrounding me every time I go. Each headstone represents the final resting place for someone’s hopes and dreams. Each one embodies a person who is loved and grieved. It is always interesting to see what information about a person is engraved into their headstone.

Colonel Edwin J. Cook

For example, during my last visit there I stumbled across the headstone of Colonel Edwin J. Cook. I was so struck by what I read that I immediately took a picture. This one man served in the Army, Navy and Air Force. He flew B-29s during World War II; F 94 fighter jets during the Korean War, and served at the Military Airlift Command headquarters during the Vietnam War. What an amazing example of service to one’s country! Can you imagine the things he experienced or witnessed? It would have been an honor to meet him.Colonel Cook headstone

History

Taken as a whole, participants from over 150 years of our country’s history lie within these grounds. Presidents, judges, military figures, scientists and medical personnel, men and women, and even the nameless are buried at Arlington. The earliest monuments date back to the Civil War. Of course, more current events and individuals from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries are memorialized. There are over 400 acres of beauty and valor to explore. However, the history of the land itself goes back even further. The land once belonged to George Washington’s step – grandson and later became the home of Robert E. Lee. It was occupied by federal troops during the Civil War and later used as a burial ground out of necessity.

But perhaps the most profound experience one will have while visiting the cemetery is watching the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier…..that is another conversation.