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Arlington National Cemetery a Symbol of Ultimate Sacrifice

“For love of country they accepted death.” - James A. Garfield

It’s Memorial Day and that means many of us will be enjoying a much-needed, three-day weekend. Today marks the 143rd observance of the holiday proclaimed by General John Logan. The birthplace of Memorial Day is the Arlington National Cemetery, where flowers were placed on the graves of Civil War soldiers. Here are some interesting facts about the famous cemetery.

Arlington National Cemetery was created June 28, 1864. It spans 624 acres and currently lays rest to over 300 thousand people. The family of Confederate general Robert E. Lee formally owned the land, where the family house still stands as a National Park Service memorial. Each year, over 40 thousand people visit the cemetery.

The President sends a wreath to Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, President John F. Kennedy’s birthday and President William Howard Taft’s birthday—the only two presidents buried in the park. The Eternal Flame that burns at Kennedy’s grave is a specially designed apparatus that has a constantly flashing electrical spark near the nozzle that relights the natural gas should the flame be extinguished.

On Memorial Day, flags are placed on each grave by dawn and remain there until after the Memorial Day Service. This year, the program included a prelude concert performed by the U.S. Navy Band followed by an Armed Forces Full Honor Wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

The 79 ton Tomb of the Unknowns was erected in 1921 above the grave of the Unknown Soldier of World War I. Nearby are tributes to unknown soldiers from World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The Vietnam Unknown was exhumed in 1988 and identified through DNA testing. It has been decided that the crypt will remain vacant.

So as you’re enjoying the holiday—marking the unofficial start of summer—or remembering your own loved ones, take a moment to think of those buried in Arlington and around the globe that gave their lives so we can enjoy the freedoms we have today. Through this, may you be inspired to discover how you can make a difference.

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