By Dr. Allison Finkelstein, Senior Historian, Arlington National Cemetery
As the epicenter of the nation’s official Memorial Day observance, May has traditionally been one of the busiest months for Arlington National Cemetery (ANC). Families, veterans, tourists and school groups come from around the country to visit gravesites and explore our sacred grounds. Soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment (“The Old Guard”) meticulously place American flags at each grave. At Memorial Amphitheater, ANC hosts the National Memorial Day Observance, and a senior government official lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In ceremonies large and small at our numerous memorials, and in personal moments of reflection at the graves of loved ones, Memorial Day at Arlington has remained a deeply meaningful experience for the past 152 years.
This year, Memorial Day will certainly be different with the closure of the cemetery to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, commemoration continues at Arlington National Cemetery, and staff remain passionately dedicated to our mission of honoring the nation’s service members. While our commemorative activities normally focus on in-person ceremonies and the power of visiting a grave, we believe that commemoration can take many forms. Commemoration can be educational: teaching people of all ages about the individuals and events we memorialize. It can include using social media to raise awareness of military sacrifice and those interred here. It can even take the form of online exhibits that bring our history into your home. Most importantly, commemoration can occur through of acts of service to others in a time of need. These types of commemoration can be just as powerful as attending a ceremony—and they make the impact of Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery truly national in scope.
As Memorial Day approaches, we invite you to join in our virtual commemorations, and we are proud to offer the following resources to the public.
Online Exhibit: For the 100th anniversary of Arlington National Cemetery’s Memorial Amphitheater, explore our featured online exhibit, which includes historic photographs, interpretive text and a short video that tells the story of the Amphitheater’s creation and legacy.
Origins of Memorial Day: Memorial Day shaped the history of Arlington National Cemetery and contributed to its status as the nation’s premier military cemetery. Learn more in our blog post on the origins of Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery.
Educational Resources: Take advantage of featured materials from our forthcoming Education Program. These free resources are designed for people of all ages, from elementary-school students to lifelong learners. Current featured topics include nurses during the Spanish-American War, the origins of Arlington National Cemetery, horticulture and the cemetery grounds, and elements of military funerals.
Website Resources: Explore the Notable Graves sections of our website to learn about some of the many notable individuals buried at Arlington National Cemetery, including prominent military figures, women, leaders in medicine, astronauts and more. You can also virtually visit the cemetery's Monuments and Memorials and learn about the people and events they commemorate.
Social Media and Blog Posts: Keep an eye on our social media platforms and this blog as we continue to add content. We are active on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Stay tuned over the next months as we share more ways you can connect to Arlington National Cemetery and memorialize our military from wherever you live.