Almost four million people a year visit the national cemetery across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., where a constant vigil is maintained at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Arlington National Cemetery is the site of the changing of a military guard around the clock daily. On Veterans Day 1921, a coffin bearing the body of an unidentified soldier of World War I was entombed adjacent to the Memorial Amphitheater and a monument weighing more than 100 tons placed atop it in 1932. Nearby crypts bear the remains of unknown American service members of World War II and the Korean War. The remains of a previously unknown Vietnam service member were exhumed on May 14, 1998, identified as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, and removed for burial.
Each Memorial Day and Veterans Day, a presidential wreath is placed at the tomb. This may explain why Arlington is America’s most well-known national cemetery, even though it is not the largest or the oldest. Some 230,000 veterans and dependents are buried on the cemetery’s 612 acres. From Pierre L’Enfant, George Washington’s aide during the American Revolution, to American service members killed during Operation Desert Storm, Arlington holds the remains of veterans representing every military action the United States has fought.
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