The Arlington National Cemetery is an active cemetery that supports 27-30 burials every day. It is also a popular tourist destination and host to 3.1 million tourists each year.
When entering the Visitor’s Center, it’s easy to forget that this is a working cemetery. The tour operators shuttle people to the three major destinations: the JFK gravesite, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, and Arlington House. Tour operators purposefully avoid funeral processions and services. Public events, such as wreath laying ceremonies and memorials, are scheduled so they do not interrupt grieving families.
I snapped this photo of the hearse and procession line-up just outside the ANC Administration building earlier today. Just beyond the hedges there was a long line of tour and charter buses. It’s easy to overlook the fact that the cemetery is not simply a tourist destination, although it is important to keep the two functions of ANC separate for the sake of the families. How the tourist operation impacts day-to-day work at the cemetery is something that all the field school students are examining.