A couple years ago right before Veteran’s Day I went with my son’s class on a trip to Arlington Cemetery and Washington DC. It was a fabulous trip! One we’ll both remember for a lifetime. One of the most memorable stops for me was Arlington National Cemetery. Visiting right before Veteran’s Day made it all have a special meaning.
Seeing Arlington National Cemetery was breathtaking and moving at the same time. Just thinking about all of those soldiers who gave their lives to make ours better was very humbling and really made me think about the life we live today.
I wanted to share some of the things we saw, to help others who may be visiting know what they can expect to find there. We didn’t get to see everything in the cemetery, this page only covers what we saw. There are even more attractions you can see when you visit, and more ceremonies depending on the day or time of year you visit.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’m hoping to share some of the beauty, wonder, and moving images I captured during our Arlington National Cemetery tour so you can understand a little more about this national land mark and the history behind it.
We were lucky enough to visit the Arlington National Cemetery in the fall. Some of the views with the fall leaves took your breath away. It was so nostalgic, and so beautiful at the same time.
While we were there we saw a funeral procession go through. If you look closely you can see it among the trees in the photo above. The hearse was a horse drawn carriage, and there were drummers marking the beat. It was a very somber procession through the cemetery. Later we heard a 21 gun salute.
Changing of the Guard: Tomb of the Unknown Soldier:
We were lucky enough to witness the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery. It was a very moving and somber experience.
At the beginning of the ceremony a relief commander appears on the plaza to announce the Changing of the Guard to the audience. He also announces the spectators will stand, and will remain silent to respect the ceremony and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Witnesses are also asked not to smoke, chew gum, or eat anything during the ceremony.
During the ceremony it was very quiet, and you could hear the rhythmic tap of the soldiers boots as they marched and turned. It was a once in a lifetime ceremony to experience, and I’m very glad I got to see it!
The ceremony was probably my favorite part of visiting Arlington National Cemetery. Our guide told us The Guards of Honor at the Tomb of the Unknowns are hand picked, and all have an impeccable record. They’re proud to honor all American service members who are “Known But to God.”
Everything must be perfect for the Changing of The Guard Ceremony, and for any guard on duty in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Each new guard undergoes a detailed white-glove inspection of the weapon, checking each part of the rifle once to make sure it is in proper operating order. The uniforms must be perfect without any spots or blemishes. The fit must also be perfect.
The guard always places the weapon on the shoulder closest to the visitors so the sentinel stands between the Tomb and any possible threat.
Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier Changing Of The Guard Interesting Facts:
While we were there our guide shared these interesting facts.
- The tomb has been guarded every minute of every day since 1937.
- The Guards didn’t even take a break during Hurricane Sandy. They continued to guard the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier through the storm.
- Referencing the 21 gun salute to our nations soldiers the guard takes 21 steps before turning to face the tomb for 21 seconds, then turns to take 21 steps back the other way.