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  • Arlington National CemeteryArlington National Cemetery Arlington, Virginia
    The Arlington National Cemetery, brings to mind a plethora of thoughts, memories and emotions. Sitting on the former estate of Robert E. Lee and his wife, Mary Anna Custis Lee, one of the descendants of Martha Washington, this serene, quiet landscape is dotted with white sentinels guarding the graves of those heroic magnificent people that died for there country, countrymen and women, ideals of the Constitution of the United States and the freedom that lives here, flourishes here, even sheds its life giving blood here; as all these strong determined fighters. The cemetery sits across the Potomac River from our nation's capitol and close to the Pentagon, that bastion of glory that sends these selfless fighters to places all over the world. Over 300,000 of our brothers and sisters rest here on the green expanse of 624 acres, those that have fought in every battle since the Civil War, with pre-Civil War veterans being reinterred after 1900. Arlington Cemetery and the US Soldiers' and Airmen's Home National Cemetery are taken care of by the Department of the Army, and the others are looked after by the Department of Veterans Affairs or the National Park Service. Arlington House, also known as the Custis-Lee Mansion, and the many grounds are taken care of by the National Park Service in memory of Robert E. Lee. George Washington Parke Custis got the land where the cemetery stands in 1802, and started building Arlington House. Over time, the estate was passed down to Robert E. Lee, Custis' son-in-law, had graduated from West Point and was serving as a US Army officer. After Fort Sumter was fired upon and surrendered, President Lincoln offered Lee the command of the Federal Army, but Lee wanted to wait and see what Virginia would do. When Virginia seceded, Lee resigned his commission and became commander of the army of Virginia, eventually becoming commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. Because of his actions then and those that followed, he was considered disloyal and his farm appropriated to become the graveyard for Union dead. The military burials had been done at the United States Soldier's National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.; however, the area was filling up quickly and Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs suggested the farmland of the Lee estate. President Lyndon B. Johnson was the first to hold a National Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in 1968.  The cemetery is divided into 70 sections, with many in the southeast area reserved for future expansion, while section 60 in that area is used for military personnel that were killed in the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. More land was acquired in 2005, adding another 73 acres to the site. Section 21 is known as the nurses section, with the Nurses Memorial standing proudly there. There is also a Confederate section, complete with its own memorial, and in section 27, over 3800 former slaves, known as Contrabands, are buried with headstones marked civilian or citizen. The Tomb of the Unknowns is also called the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, standing atop a hill that looks out over the capitol. It has become one of the most popular places at the cemetery, with the tomb being constructed of Yule marble that was quarried in Colorado and is 7 pieces that weigh 79 short tons. It opened, after completion, in 1932, and cost $48,000. At first, it was called the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, but as more service people were interred there, it became the Tomb of the Unknowns. Those that are interred there include; an unknown soldier of WWI, one from WWII, one from the Korean, another from Vietnam, in 1984, but disinterred in 1998, when the remains were identified as those of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael J. Blassie, who went home to St. Louis, Missouri. The crypt remains empty. The tomb has been continuously guarded since July 2, 1937, by the United States Army; and on April 6, 1948, the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (the Old Guard) started guarding it.

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  • Arlington House-The Robert E. Lee MemorialArlington House-Robert E. Lee Memorial Arlington, Virginia
    Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial is also known as the Custis-Lee Mansion, since it was originally called that before Lee joined the ranks of his state and southern countrymen. It is a Greek Revival architectural styled house in Arlington, Virginia that looks out over the Potomac River, exactly across from the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Before entering the Civil War, the estate had been the property of Robert E. Lee and his wife Mary Anna Custis Lee, and Lee was a United States Army officer. Lee had been offered the command of the Federal army, but when Virginia seceded, he went with his neighbors, and fellow Virginians. During that Civil War, the grounds became the scene of the graveyard of many fallen victims of the horrible fighting, and it became the site of the Arlington National Cemetery; making absolutely sure that Lee would never again be able to live at his former estate. Since that terrible period in our nation's history, the country has seen fit to make this beautiful mansion a national memorial to Lee, who had gained such great respect, from those folks living in the north and the south. The mansion was constructed by George Washington's step-grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, who was the most prominent citizen of the area called Alexandria County, which was part of the District of Columbia.  The estate originally contained 1100 acres of land that was bought by Custis' father, John Parke Custis in 1778, and Custis thought he would build on the property in 1802, after Martha passed on, and three years after George had passed on. He wanted to call it Mount Washington, but family members talked him out of it and suggested Arlington House after the family's homestead on the east shore of the state. George Hadfield, who had designed the capitol building, also designed the Custis mansion. The house had two kitchens, one for the summer and one for the winter; but the most distinguishing features were the 8 huge columns that sat in the front, each one 5 feet in diameter. During his time at the home, Custis had become the most important man in the county, and held marvelous gala affairs that had many famous people coming there. His only surviving child was Mary Anna Randolph Custis, whose mother was a cousin of Mrs. Lee, Robert's mother, who came to visit often. In 1831, Robert and Mary were married, two years after his graduation from West Point, and they lived in the house for the next 3 decades. Most of their married life was spent away from the house, since Robert would be stationed at many posts, where they managed to have 6 children born of the 7 they had altogether. George Washington Parke Custis passed on in 1857, and left the property to his wife and then to the oldest son, George Washington Custis Lee. The beautiful estates had fallen into disrepair, and Lee took a leave of absence to start the needed agricultural and financial repairs, in 1860. When the Civil War started in 1861, Virginia left the Union, and Colonel Lee, who had been in the army for 35 years already, was offered the command of the Union Army. Lee wasn't in favor of the secession, since he was a staunch supporter of the country and the constitution, but felt he couldn't turn his back on his neighbors in the state, so left the army and then went to Richmond to receive his command as leader of the Virginia Provincial Army.

January 11, 2011