Sunday, December 29, 2013

On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery

    As some of you may recall, I went to Washington, DC last month. My Dad [Edward H. Anderson, Lt. Colonel, Army Corps of Engineers (ret'd)], who passed away just short of age 90 in August of 2012, had requested that his ashes be interred at Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Virginia just across the Potomac from our nation's capitol. Arlington was, of course, the Estate of Robert E. Lee, and was occupied and confiscated by Union forces very early in the Civil War. Decades later, the courts did award General Lee's descendants financial compensation for the seizure of the property which was already well into use as a military cemetery by that time.

    The ceremony itself was most impressive, and it was a very mild November day indeed. Being directly involved in the ceremony itself, we didn't take any pictures ourselves. I counted at least 40 service men (from the 3rd Infantry regiment, US Army, otherwise known as the Old Guard, including the honor guard, Ceremonial Band, Caisson and escort, Chaplain, and rifle squad (as dad was a Combat veteran - WW2, Omaha Beach - three volleys were fired as part of the service).

The Army Ceremonial Band marching at Arlington.

The caisson and caisson escort at a funeral at Arlington

These photos are in the public domain. More pictures to give you an idea of what is involved in an Arlington funeral can be found at:

and the main official website is:

    Arlington itself is a most impressive place; I could easily have spent a day there exploring the grounds, which of course include the eternal flame at the grave site of John F Kennedy. Among the attendees at the ceremony and the reception later at Fort Meyers (home of the last Army Horses, specifically maintained for duty at Arlington, and itself originally a cavalry barracks), were some of the family's oldest friends, including Mr. and Mrs. Walter Peters and their daughter and her husband. Mr Peters gave several of us a copy of a book about Arlington, as seen below.


    This turned out to be a surprisingly engrossing and compelling book. While focusing on Arlington itself, and our nation's treatment of its fallen, it manages to be at the same time a surprisingly broad history of the US as a whole from about the Revolution to the present day, while incorporating many anecdotes down to the very individual level. One prominent theme involves Arlington's role in the gradual integration of former slaves into US society (and the cemetery itself), and the role that the cemetery (and the Spanish American War) ultimately played in healing the deep wounds of our Civil War. I would recommend it to anyone, but of course especially anyone visiting Arlington National Cemetery, where as a tourist, participant in a funeral there, or visiting the grave site of a family member.



  1. After your comment on my blog I had to come visit and see your post about your Dad. You Yanks do pageantry really well. What a moving interment. We wont see their ilk again in our lifetimes. Kia Kaha.

    1. I agree on both counts, and... thanks for stopping by!