Steve has a past in the DC area – a good past, that is. So while we were here, he wanted to visit his old stomping grounds from many moons ago (32 years). Back then, he was in the Air Force, stationed at the Pentagon – but one of his part-time jobs was as the wedding coordinator at the Old Post Chapel on Fort Myer Army Base.
He told me the job was a civilian position that he “just lucked into” from another Air Force buddy, and he loved it. He worked every weekend for three years and conducted over a thousand weddings. No wonder he seemed so calm at our wedding!
On the day we arrived, at least two military funeral services took place at the chapel. It is used extensively for funerals in cases where the deceased is buried at Arlington Cemetery, which is just adjacent to the chapel.
Following the procession, we walked into Arlington Cemetery and made our first stop at the Arlington House – currently known as the Robert E. Lee Memorial. Within the little museum at the back of the house, we learned that Arlington House was once the home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. His family abandoned the house in 1861 and was eventually confiscated by the feds due to non payment of taxes. The house and 200 acres of surrounding land were set aside as a military cemetery in 1864, and the original 22 headstones of soldiers can be seen placed around Mrs. Lee’s flower garden.
Arlington National Cemetery has undergone many expansions over the years, and it now encompass 624 acres. It is considered the most hallowed burial ground in the United States.
From here, we walked to the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, previously known as Iwo Jima. Since we entered through Fort Myer, we did not have a map to find it, but Steve claimed he knew the general area. He created his own route, and we took a long scenic walk to get there. It included going down the hill from the Arlington House, stopping by the JFK burial ground and around the cemetery then passing by the Women’s Memorial…
…and the Seabees Navy Memorial. Then we walked down the Esplanade and along the George Washington Memorial Parkway to Arlington Blvd.
Anyone with common sense would drive to the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, and the drivers were probably wondering what the heck we were doing out there blazing our own trail. But it was a beautiful day and we walked several miles – who needs a car? As we walked along the busy George Washington Memorial Parkway, I was ecstatic as I captured some beautiful fall foliage along the way (the blog’s current header was taken along Memorial Drive).
There was a stretch of road where there wasn’t enough room to walk safely, so we just trudged along between the beautiful trees on the carpet of leaves.
Getting back to our car was a bit easier, as we located another gate into the cemetery and headed through Arlington National Cemetery to the Old Post Chapel.
On another day we visited the mansion of the father of the United States, George Washington, in Mount Vernon. While taking the tour of the mansion and the surrounding grounds, we learned that he designed and oversaw the expansion of Mount Vernon. At the educational center and museum, we also learned that the founding father never attended college. Instead, he educated himself via a lifelong pursuit of self-learning. In the three hours we were there, we learned a great deal about the general and first president, and we understood why he was a founding father of our nation.
Among other things, farming was one of Washington’s true passions. He invented the 16-sided barn at Mt. Vernon, which was used for grain processing and storage. Horses trotted around the circular slotted wooden floor on top of harvested wheat to separate the grain from the stalk. Once the heads of grain were separated from the straw, it would fall through to a granary below and stored there until milled. At that time that was considered very ingenious. To learn more about the life and works of George Washington, click here.
Our stay in DC also included some socializing. We went to Baltimore to have lunch with Steve’s longtime friend that he met while stationed here. I also met with my friends from Cebu, Philippines that I’ve known for many years.
As you can probably tell by now, we had an action-packed visit in and around the nation’s capital. Whew! after our 9th day here we were exhausted and ready to move on, not to mention we were beginning to feel the fall chill in the air. Our base camp was at Cherry Hill Park in College Park, MD, (Steve’s review is here). It’s the most convenient RV park to Washington, DC, with easy access to the excellent Metro system.