ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY/PENTAGON MEMORIAL
Trip Start Apr 01, 2013
89Trip End Jun 28, 2013
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The weather was a bit average. It was overcast and quite cold so I had to rug up a bit. I was still sporting the shorts but a jacket was definitely needed.
I still had a few hours left on my bike hire so I grabbed one outside the apartment and rode down to the Smithsonian metro station to catch the train to Arlington. I managed to work out the appropriate fare and how to get a ticket from the ticket machine. I even managed to get on the right train which was a bonus.
We left the District of Columbia, crossed the Potomac River, and entered the state of Virginia which is where the Arlington National Cemetery is located
Now, Arlington National Cemetery is both the most hallowed burial ground of America's fallen and one of the most visited tourist sites in the Washington DC area. It is a fully operational national cemetery and has been since May 1864. They conduct an average of 27 funerals each work day.
The first stop on the tour was the Kennedy grave site where JFK, Jackie O, Senator Robert F Kennedy, Senator Ted Kennedy and some other unimportant Kennedy's lay buried. I think Shona Laing summed it up pretty well when she sang, "I'm Glad I'm not a Kennedy".
JFK's grave site is one of the most visited attractions in the US and I gotta say, it's bloody underwhelming. Just a couple of granite plaques and a small gas flame. The surrounding walls have some of his more famous speech quotes but other than that, it was shite.
Rather than jump back on the trolley bus, I walked up to the 'Tomb of the Unknowns' which is also known as the 'Tomb of the Unknown Soldier'
The Tomb of the Unknowns stands atop a hill in the cemetery and overlooks Washington DC. Back in the early 1920's the US Congress approved the burial of an unidentified American soldier from World War I in the plaza of the Memorial Amphitheater. Inscribed on the back of the tomb are the words "Here rests in honoured glory an American soldier known but to God".
The Tomb of the Unknowns is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and in any weather by Tomb Guard sentinels. Sentinels, all volunteers, are considered to be the best of the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). The guard is changed every hour on the hour.
I got there just in time for the changing of the guard ceremony which is a very formal military process with clicking of heals, marching in formation, salutes, etc. The sentinels are impeccably dressed in their fancy duds.
Certain groups, including a school, were included in a formal wreath laying which involved more salutes, heal clicking, marching and a soldier playing 'The Last Post' on his bugle
After all the pomp and ceremony, I had a wander around and checked out the memorials for the astronauts who perished in the two space shuttle disasters involving the Columbia and the Challenger. There was also a memorial for the members of the Armed Forces who died attempting to rescue American hostages held in Iran in 1980.
I wandered through the rows and rows of little white grave markers where members of the US Armed Forces and their families are buried. There are thousands of them. Those who fought in every conflict the US has been involved with. A somber but respectful place and it is very well maintained.
I jumped back on the trolley bus and headed up to Arlington House which is located on top of a hill and has one of the best views looking back to Washington DC. You also get a good view across to the Pentagon which was where I was headed next.
My final stop was back at the Visitors Centre where I had to ask where the US Marine Corps War Memorial was located. It was a 15 minute walk away so I got to stepping
Now the Marine Corps Memorial (also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial) is pretty famous and one of the more impressive memorials I have seen. And that is saying something in this city which is full of memorials !
The Marine Corps Memorial is dedicated to all of the personnel in the US Marine Corps who have died in the defence of their country since 1775. The massive sculpture is based on a photo taken by a press photographer during the Battle of Iwo Jima and features marines and sailors raising an America Flag.
I headed back to the Arlington Cemetery train station and jumped on the next train to the Pentagon. I got off and walked into what seemed like Fort Knox. There were police and guys with automatic weapons all over the show. Every 20 metres or so there were signs warning that photography was strictly prohibited. Well, specifically taking photos of the actual Pentagon Building was prohibited.
I walked for what seemed like a mile to the Pentagon Memorial which commemorates the 184 people who lost their lives when American Airlines Flight 77 was hijacked and deliberately crashed into the Pentagon building as part of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001
To honour the 184 victims, 184 illuminated benches have been arranged according to the victim's ages. Each bench is engraved with the name of a victim. The benches representing the victims that were inside the Pentagon are arranged so those reading the names will face the Pentagon's south facade, where the plane hit. Benches dedicated to victims aboard the plane are arranged so that those reading the engraved name will be facing skyward along the path the plane traveled.
Having had a good look around and after getting my photo taken with a joker from the Air force, I made my way back to Washington DC and the apartment. I got a load of washing sorted and re-packed for my trip to New York tomorrow.
Nice quiet night tonight but busy times ahead !
Over and out !