Native Washingtonian 101: Burials at Arlington National

Funerals are always awkward wherever you encounter them, but visitors at Arlington National Cemetery especially seem unsure of what to do when encountering one.

Arlington seems like another stop among the sites they’ll see around town. The only difference is the cemetery is still a living thing of sorts. It’s interactive. It’s real and sometimes raw with emotion.

Some 25 to 30 are buried Monday through Saturday so chances are you might see a military caisson passing by. The protocol is simple: stand quietly as they pass and remove your hat. When they’ve passed, resume your walk.

What about grave sites themselves? Most funerals are in Sections 60 and 61 away from the Tomb of the Unknown and the Eternal Flame where most people visit. But, I saw one near the Tomb recently and you’ll see one here and there.

Can you take a photo? Look at it this way – if your loved one was being buried, would you appreciate gawkers taking photos in your personal moment of grief? There’s no rule against it and photographing from a distance like mine above where the mourners can’t see you is allowable, but please be discreet. I softened my photo here so no one can be identified.

Also, the changing of the guard at the Tomb requires everyone to stand during the 12-minute exchange. You can sit otherwise. Again, remove your hat and speak softly if at all. Photos are permitted.

As for walking through the cemetery, it’s OK to talk. The youth groups get a little loud because they’re not thinking about it. Please remind your kids to speak softly.

About Rick

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