Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia is a military established during the American Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House. This once was the estate of the family of Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s wife Mary Anna (Custis) Lee, a descendant of Martha Washington. The cemetery is situated directly across the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. and near The Pentagon. It is served by the Arlington Cemetery station on the Blue Line of the Washington Metro system.
In an area of 624 acres, veterans and military casualties from each of the nation’s wars are interred in the cemetery, ranging from the American Civil War through to the military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Pre-Civil War dead were reinterred after 1900.
Arlington National Cemetery is administered by the Department of the Army. Arlington House (Custis-Lee Mansion) and its grounds are administered by the National Park Service as a memorial to Lee.
Arlington National Cemetery is divided into 70 sections, with some sections in the southeast portion of the cemetery reserved for future expansion. Section 21, is known as the Nurses Section. The Nurses Memorial is located there along with the many nurses that are buried at Arlington. There is a Confederate section with graves of soldiers of the Confederate States of America and a Confederate Memorial. In Section 27, more than 3,800 former slaves are buried. They were called “Contrabands” during the Civil War. Their headstones are designated with the word “Civilian” or “Citizen”.
Section 60, in the southeast part of the cemetery, is the burial ground for military personnel killed in the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. In 2005, Arlington National Cemetery acquired 12 acres of additional land from the National Park Service, along with 17 acres from the Department of Defense that was part of Fort Myer and 44 acres that is the site of the Navy Annex.
The flags in Arlington National Cemetery are flown at half-staff from a half hour before the first funeral until a half hour after the last funeral each day. Funerals are normally conducted five days a week, excluding weekends. Funerals, including internments and inurnments, average between 27-30 per day. The cemetery conducts approximately 6,900 burials each year.
With more than 300,000 people interred there, Arlington National Cemetery has the second-largest number of people buried of any national cemetery in the United States. The largest of the 130 national cemeteries is the Calverton National Cemetery, on Long Island, near Riverhead, New York, which conducts more than 7,000 burials each year.
In addition to in-ground burial, Arlington National Cemetery also has one of the larger columbariums for cremated remains in the country. Four courts are currently in use, each with 5,000 niches. When construction is complete, there will be nine courts with a total of 50,000 niches; capacity for 100,000 remains. Any honorably discharged veteran is eligible for inurnment in the columbarium, if they served on active duty at some point in their career (other than for training).
To learn more watch the video DVD entitled, “Arlington National Cemetery – America’s National Shrine.” http://ArlingtonNationalCemeteryDVD.com/