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A rose lies on top of a tomb stone at the Arlington National Cemetery May 30, 2014. The cemetery commemorates its 150th anniversary June 15, 2014 and has a rich history of honoring those who served.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Eric Keenan

Arlington National Cemetery commemorates its 150th anniversary

4 Jun 2014 | Lance Cpl. Eric Keenan The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

From America’s founding to today, Marines and other service members have fought to ensure the nation’s survival and prosperity — many giving their lives as the ultimate sacrifice.

For the past 150 years, the Arlington National Cemetery has been recognized as a place to honor those who served.

“When you think Arlington, you think two things: honor first and foremost and second of all, tragedy,” said Roderick Gainer, curator of the Arlington National Cemetery, “There is something sad about young people serving their country and being cut off at the prime of their life.”

Open to the public year-round, Arlington National Cemetery is a popular historical destination for those who have served or anyone who wants to honor and remember those who have. 

“Even those who don’t have a family member there can go to honor those who have sacrificed for their country,” said Kara R. Newcomer, historian for United States Marine Corps History Division.

Prior to becoming this nation’s most hallowed ground, Arlington was the home of Robert E. Lee and his wife Mary.

Following the Civil War, it became a burial ground when Army Pvt. William Christman, of the 67
th Pennsylvania Infantry, was laid to rest May 13, 1864. The cemetery was officially named a National Military Cemetery June 15, 1864.

Although the cemetery is managed by the Army, it honors every branch of service, Marines included.

“I think it’s among, if not the most sacred shrine,” Gainer said. “It’s where (United States of America) military heroes, its best, are interred.”

A few notable Marines buried at the cemetery include 15 commandants of the Marine Corps, Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone and several other Marine Medal of Honor recipients were laid to rest inside its walls. A lone Lebanese cedar tree and a memorial pay homage to the 220 Marines who lost their lives in the Beruit Barracks Bombing in 1983.

Whether killed in action or dying peacefully of old age, all service members swore an oath to defend this nation and the Arlington National Arlington Cemetery honors their patriotic deeds, actions and intentions, ultimately immortalizing them.