As with many other memorials and sights in the area, Arlington National Cemetery was forced to tweak the ways guests can pay homage to our fallen heroes during the pandemic. The 639-acre military cemetery that serves as the final resting place for more than 400,000 veterans and eligible family members responded with an education program that’s since been expanded and now includes both virtual and in-person experiences.
Arlington National Cemetery’s Education Program has full online course materials telling the story of the nation’s history through the lens of the cemetery and some of the notable people buried there, including President John F. Kennedy Jr. and his wife, Jackie, and astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn, the first man to orbit the earth. The cemetery was established during the Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House, the previous estate of Mary Anna Custis Lee, great-granddaughter of Martha Washington and wife of Robert E. Lee.
Current materials include online resources, lesson plans, and walking tours, which can be used for a virtual exploration of the sight or during an in-person tour. The cemetery is currently open, with restrictions in some places; however, the Memorial Amphitheater remains closed for the time being. Their website has the most up-to-date information on how to visit.
There will be 27 total educational modules released over the next five years covering military history as well as the contributions that American service members have made in the arts, medicine, politics, science, technology, and more. The first four modules, currently available online, include one on African-American history, with a tour of the graves of prominent Black military heroes, civil-rights pioneers, and the Freedman’s Village, a community for former slaves that once existed at Arlington. The other three modules cover how the Spanish-American War of 1898 transformed America and the 20th-century world, the traditions and rituals of the cemetery, and the history and meaning behind the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The year 2021 actually marks the 100th anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a monument dedicated to deceased U.S. service members whose remains have not been able to be identified. The entombment of the Unknown Soldier of World War I occurred on November 11, 1921; this year’s centennial on November 11 will honor the sentinels who have stood watch over the tomb 24 hours a day, seven days a week, since 1926.
Arlington National Cemetery’s education program is a great option for non-traditional virtual learning, for families to download before embarking on a field trip to the location, for teachers to supplement their history lessons, and for history buffs wanting to know more about this sacred, important sight in the United States. For more information, watch this short video from the Deputy Chief of Staff and check out the website.
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