Serving as the most hallowed burial ground of our Nation's fallen, the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia honors those men and woman who have served our nation and their families by providing a sense of beauty, patriotic respect and peace.
Arlington serves as a final resting place for over 300,000 American military servicemen or women. This total does not include veterans who've not been found. Those people are represented by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, located in the center of the cemetery.
Situated directly across the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., Arlington National Cemetery is one of the most visited tourist sites in the Washington D.C .area, visited by nearly four million people every year. A fully operational national cemetery since May 1864, it holds an average of 27 funerals each workday, providing final farewells to fallen American heroes from current battle zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as to veterans of World War II, the Korean conflict, Vietnam and the Cold War.
One of the more popular sites at the cemetery is the Tomb of the Unknowns, also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Made entirely from Yule marble, it consists of seven pieces, with a total weight of 72 metric tons.
The tomb was completed and opened to the public April 9, 1932, at a cost of $48,000. The Tomb of the Unknowns has been perpetually guarded since July 2, 1937, by the U.S. Army. The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as "The Old Guard," began guarding the Tomb on April 6, 1948.
The Tomb is also part of the Arlington Memorial Amphitheater, a venue that regularly hosts state funerals and Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies. The amphitheater, which seats 1,500 people and is built of Imperial Danby marble, was the result of a campaign by Ivory Kimball to construct a place to honor America's service men and women.
Congress authorized the structure March 4, 1913. Woodrow Wilson laid the cornerstone for the building on October 15, 1915, which contained 15 items, including a Bible and a copy of the Constitution.
In addition, there are seven other memorial gardens at the cemetery, to include the USS Maine Memorial, Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial, Lockerbie Cairn Memorial, Commonwealth Cross of Sacrifice Memorial, Women in Military Service for America Memorial and Place of Remembrance Memorial.
In addition to monuments and gardens, the rolling green hills of the 624 acre cemetery are dotted with trees, some being older than the cemetery itself. This impressive landscape serves as a visual tribute to the service and sacrifice of every individual and their families laid to rest within the cemetery.
Due to limited space, the criteria for ground burial eligibility are more restrictive than at other national cemeteries.