Lightning hit the eternal flame and other ANC notes

The annual meeting of Washington tour guides and Arlington National Cemetery officials is always filled with details, but one really woke us up.

Lightning hit the eternal flame at John F. Kennedy’s grave in August. If you’ve ever been there amid all the marble, you’d know that’s a scary thought. Meanwhile, the flame’s gas system constructed in 1967 is being replaced.

The condensed version of the two-hour meeting:

• Arlington has room for burials through the 2050s thanks to three ongoing expansion projects. There’s no end date for Arlington. Currently, 27 to 30 burials are performed on weekdays and some on Saturdays.

• If you haven’t been to the updated website, visit It has everything you need, including a map to a grave that shows you walking toward it. The site has photos of 259,978 graves.

• Columbarium No. 9 is under construction that will have 20,296 spaces. Currently, there are 40,000 spaces in the first eight combined. It should be done by 2013.

• The Millennium Project is 32 acres behind Arlington House that will convert woods into graves. It’s currently 35 percent into the design phase with construction expected to begin in September 2013.

• The Naval Annex will begin demolition on the buildings and parking lots in coming months to also expand the cemetery another 37 acres. No word on whether Columbia Pike will be closed when the cemetery jumps over it in 2014. The Air Force Memorial will remain.

• The visitors center becomes a “welcome center” by February with lots of needed modernizing. Look for nine panels showcasing the entire cemetery.

• No word on the water fountains ever truly functioning. Meanwhile, officials said there were 55 heat-related issues this year requiring an ambulance. Gee, little water + hot as blazes = problems. You can buy water at the women’s memorial, but few people know that. I stop at Joe Louis’ grave at the bottom of the Tomb of the Unknowns because that water fountain works well as does the one by the new bathrooms behind Arlington House.

• Plenty of anniversaries around the cemetery. The USS Maine Monument is undergoing renovations for a 2014 Memorial Day remembrance. The mast was erected in 1915. There’s also the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination on Nov. 13, 2013, 150th anniversary of Freedman’s Village on Dec. 4, 2013, the cemetery’s 150th in May 2014 and the Confederate Memorial’s 100th on June 4, 1914.

• Arlington House’s interior restoration should be complete by Christmas after 6 ½ years. Still exterior work to be done.

About Rick

Rick Snider is a native Washingtonian, long-time journalist and licensed tour guide since 2010.
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