On November 11, 1921, exactly three years after the end of World War I, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was dedicated at Arlington Cemetery in Virginia. This cemetery is steeped in a treasure trove of rich history. Here are five things you may not know about Arlington National Cemetery...
One Crypt Remains Empty At The Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier In 1921, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was built for an unidentified World War I American soldier who was exhumed from an American cemetery in France. The tomb was engraved with the words: “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.” Three other graves alongside the tomb hold the remains of unknown soldiers from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. One of those crypts was exhumed in 1998, and the remains were identified as Air Force officer Michael Joseph Blassie, who was killed during the Vietnam War in May 1972. His remains were then moved to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri. Officials decided to keep the crypt vacant and replaced its cover with one that says: “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen 1958-1975.”
The Cemetery Grounds Were Owned By a Relative of George Washington
George Washington Parke Custis, the first president’s adopted grandson, originally owned Arlington estate which is now the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery. Custis initially thought about naming the 1,100-acre property Mount Washington, but named it Arlington, which was the name of the Custis family’s estate in Virginia. Custis did however honor his grandfather's legacy by building the Arlington House as a memorial to his adopted grandfather. The mansion still stands today and can be found on the grounds of the cemetery.
Sentinels Guard The Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier Twenty-four hours a day, rain or shine, soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as "The Old Guard," stand watch over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Tomb Guards, also called Sentinels, are chosen for this prestigious and highly selective post only after rigorous training and a demanding series of examinations. The Old Guard has held this distinguished duty since 1948.
The First Person Interred on The Grounds Was Not a Service Member
Mary Randolph, a cousin of the wife of George Washington Park Custis, died on January 23, 1828, and was buried on the estate, which predated any servicemen interred there. She was the author of “The Virginia House-Wife; Or, Methodical Cook,” which was one of the most popular housekeeping and cookbook published in the 19th century. As an interesting bit of trivia, Mary Randolph was descended from John Rolfe and Pocahontas on her mother’s side.
More Than Two Dozen Funerals Are Held Daily More than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans, and their families are buried in the sprawling 624-acre grounds of Arlington National Cemetery. A total of 27 to 30 funerals are held each day during the week and between six and eight burial services are performed on Saturdays.