Arlington National Cemetery: Honoring the Fallen

Riding the DC Metro back from Arlington National Cemetery, a young boy approached two Marines and held out his hand. “Thank you for your service,” he told them. The two Marines smiled and nodded. The young boy went back to sit with his dad who was wearing a T-shirt, the back emblazoned with his unit in Vietnam. It was that kind of day, a time to reach out and thank those who serve and remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

The crowds at Arlington National Cemetery grew as the day wore on, despite the blistering heat. Those who forgot water bottles crowded around the water fountains, anything to stay hydrated. Cell phones were employed, not to talk or text, but to capture the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider.

There was silence during the moving ceremony.

At the grave of President John F. Kennedy, older visitors who remember that fateful day in Dallas and younger people who were not yet born, came together, staring silently at the eternal flame.

Rolling Thunder, an annual motorcycle rally calling for the government to recognize and protect prisoners of war and those missing in action, was in full force. Motorcycles lined the roadway leading up to the cemetery’s entrance.

Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, the rally had a full weekend of events, including a candle light vigil at the Vietnam Memorial. When Rolling Thunder began in 1988, 2,500 people participated. This year’s rally was expected to attract more than 900,000 people.

The scale of Arlington National Cemetery is overwhelming, covering nearly 625 acres, the many gravestones seeming to go on for miles. The cemetery performs between 27 and 30 funerals each day. The mission of the cemetery is simple yet profound:

On behalf of the American people, lay to rest those who have served our nation with dignity and honor, treating their families with respect and compassion, and connecting guests to the rich tapestry of the cemetery’s living history, while maintaining these hallowed grounds befitting the sacrifice of all those who rest here in quiet repose.

About Charlene Giannetti (816 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines including the New York Times. She is the author of 12 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her new book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Charlene divides her time between homes in Manhattan and Alexandria, Virginia.