Since the Civil War, Arlington National Cemetery has been our nation's preeminent burial ground for military personnel.
Over 300,000 souls are buried here, in an area of more than 600 acres, including veterans from all of our nation's wars.
Funerals here at Arlington average 28 a day, with about 6,400 burials annually. And nearly four million people visit Arlington National Cemetery every year.
It’s a place I believe that every American citizen should visit at least once. I’ve journeyed here many times over the years, and it always affects me.
Most tourists and visitors to Arlington keep to very familiar paths here at the cemetery, visiting the Tomb of the Unknowns or President John F. Kennedy's gravesite.
However, many relatives and friends now pay their respects and mourn their losses at the graves in Section 60; it’s the newest section of Arlington; and it is here that our fallen soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan are now being laid to rest.
According to the latest figures from the Department of Defense, nearly 5,000 U.S. troops have now lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And Section 60 already includes nearly 500 men and women who were killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Arlington is one of more than 100 national cemeteries spread throughout the United States where there are military graves. And some families do turn down the opportunity to have a loved one buried here at Arlington, opting instead to have their graves closer to home.
But very sadly, government officials now say that Arlington National Cemetery is running out of space.
Plans to expand the cemetery now include seven new areas where urns will hold the ashes of more than 100,000 people.
And particularly touching on any visit to Arlington National Cemetery are the many personal mementos left at many of the graves here – flags, photographs of spouses and children, children's drawings, coins, greeting cards, personal notes, stones, and even unopened beer bottles.
Arlington National Cemetery – a place everyone should visit – and pay their respects to our nation’s heroes.