Arlington National Cemetery, where so many of America’s heroes – both those who served, as well as those who fell in service – rest, officially opened on this day in 1864. The land on which Arlington sits has a storied American history of its own, originally owned by the family of the most-beloved of American heroes – George Washington.
A History of American Military Heroes
Born the grandson of Martha Custis Washington (who’d been widowed before her marriage to the first president), George Washington Parke Custis grew up as the adopted grandson of his namesake, George Washington.
George Washington Parke Custis inherited this land, building on it Arlington House. He also raised his only child Mary Anna Custis there, and she inherited the land from her father. Mary Anna married an American military figure, herself, wedding West Point graduate Robert E. Lee.
From Estate to Cemetery
During the Civil War, the United States acquired the land (held now by a Confederate nemesis) at a tax sale. The southern portion became, in 1863, served as Freedman’s Village, a place for freed slaves to live.
The land then became the nation’s cemetery, with the first burial occurring on May 13, 1864. Arlington National Cemetery officially opened a month later, on June 15, 1864. Sixty-five years later, on May 30, 1929, President Herbert Hoover held the first Memorial Day service at Arlington.
For those of us who stand for the Jewish state and the Jewish people, many notable Jewish veterans rest in Arlington. One Christian veteran – neither Jewish, nor American – lies there, as well. A British military man, Orde Wingate helped train and form the early pre-state Israeli military, held strong Zionist beliefs, and after he lost his life in a WWII plane crash involving many American allies, he joined the veterans of all faiths laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.Tags: American Jews Arlington National Cemetery History military United States Veterans