Arlington National Cemetery Turns 150
By Master Sgt. Kristin duBois
| | June 10, 2014
June 10, 2014 --
The musicians of “The President’s Own” perform in dozens of venues in and around Washington, D.C., and across the country on tour, but none is more revered than Arlington National Cemetery (ANC). The Marine Band has performed at ANC for standard and full honors funerals for both former and active duty Marines, memorial dedications, remembrance ceremonies, and Veteran’s and Memorial Day events. The number of these occasions averages to about 140 a year, second only to the more than 200 performances the band does annually at the Executive Mansion. It is highly likely that the Marine Band has played at ANC more than any other musical unit from the Department of Defense since its first Decoration Day ceremony there on May 30, 1869. So it is fitting that on the cemetery’s 150th anniversary, at 8 p.m., Friday, June 13, the Marine Band will provide the soundtrack for the “Arlington at 150” Observance Program: A Tribute to Arlington’s Past, Present and Future at the Memorial Amphitheater.
One hundred fifty years ago, on May 11, 1864, Pvt. William Henry Christman of the 67th Pennsylvania Infantry was the first military service man to be interred in Section 27 on the grounds overlooking the Potomac River and the nation’s capital. The expansive property had once belonged to Martha Washington’s son John Parke Custis who passed it down to his grand-daughter Mary Anna Randolph Custis, the wife of Gen. Robert E. Lee. The federal government seized the land when the number of Civil War dead overwhelmed local cemeteries and years later purchased it from Lee’s son George Washington Custis Lee. The grounds were established as a national cemetery in June 1864. ANC held its first Decoration Day ceremony on May 30, 1868; the Marine Band joined the observance a year later.
"Arlington at 150” will take place at 8:30 p.m., with a prelude that will begin at 8 p.m. The event is free and tickets are not required. Free parking is available in the visitor’s parking lot at the Welcome Center off of Memorial Avenue in Arlington. Patrons can take free shuttles or walk to the Memorial Amphitheater.