Arlington National Cemetery was once a plantation owned by Robert E. Lee. He fled the plantation at the start of the Civil War. The federal government bought the property in 1882. As casualties during the Civil War grew, there eventually wasn’t enough room in the Washington D.C. cemeteries. To bury all the war dead, the military needed more land, so 200 acres of the Arlington plantation were set-aside as a military cemetery. The first soldier to be buried there was Private William Christmas on May 13, 1864. Now the cemetery is run by the Department of the Army, and thousands of the nation’s bravest service men and women are buried there. One of the most important and most visited parts of Arlington National Cemetery is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This commemorates all of the soldiers whose remains were recovered but are unidentified. The single tomb is guarded 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by the most qualified members of the Old Guard — regardless of weather. It is considered one of the highest honors to guard this tomb. There is also an hourly ceremony called the Changing of the Guard that the public can witness when the cemetery is open. The ceremony is full of symbolism that honors the fallen.
Interesting Facts About Arlington National Cemetary
• Between 27 and 30 funeral services are conducted every day.
• The cemetery covers 624 acres of land.
• It is one of the oldest national cemeteries.
• The cemetery is the only national cemetery to hold service
members from every war in U.S. history.
• Three million tourists visit every year.
• Active duty military, retirees, reservists, recipients of the military’s highest
honors and former prisoners of war are eligible to be buried at Arlington.
• Presidents John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft are buried at
Arlington National Cemetery.
• Members of the Old Guard, or the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, take care
of funerals and guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
• The Old Guard is the oldest active-duty infantry unit; it was formed in 1784.
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