SHGTUS Reunion Highlights - Remarks from Patrick K. Hallinan, Executive Director, Army National Military Cemeteries

9 years ago

At our 2014 reunion banquet we were honored to have Patrick K. Hallinan as guest speaker. Mr. Hallinan served as Superintendent, Arlington National Cemetery from October 2010 to July 2013. Here are his remarks delivered that night to our membership. It is a long read but full of great information about the direction of Arlington National Cemetery... past, present, and future!


It is an honor to be here this evening -- to be surrounded by so many who are the unbroken chain of soldiers maintaining a constant vigil of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, our nation’s tribute to all missing and unknown service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice -- they not only gave their lives, but also their identities to protect the freedoms of all Americans.

For 150 years, Arlington National Cemetery has been a special place of honor, remembrance, and tradition for people across this great nation – and around the world. Once created out of necessity during the American Civil War, Arlington is now a national shrine, honoring the service and sacrifice of the more than 400,000 active duty military members, veterans and their families who rest here, and paying tribute to the historic individuals and events that have shaped our nation.

And for the many who visit Arlington – those from our great nation as well as those from around the world, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Sentinels who guard it, are seen as THE symbol of honor and remembrance, the epitome of our military’s selfless service and sacrifice for the people of our country.

From the American Revolution to the conflicts of the 21st century, the history of the United States, and of its people, can be seen throughout Arlington National Cemetery. On a daily basis, our team bears witness to this history, and plays a role in creating history as well. ANC staff performs our noble mission of laying our veterans to rest with honor and dignity, and those who walk the mat to maintain the constant vigil at the Tomb of the Unknown of the Unknown Soldier -- not only share a sacred trust, we also share in the continuing legacy of Arlington as a living memorial to the heroes of the past and the heroes yet to come.

As we all know so well, no plot on ANC’s sacred ground can be purchased, it must be earned through honorable service to our nation. To wear the Tomb Guard badge is something that can only be earned through dedication, perseverance, diligence and nothing less than perfection.

Why is Arlington significant

Arlington National Cemetery is the nation’s premiere military cemetery. It is the place where presidents and military leaders are buried among those they led, as well as the symbol of reconciliation between the North and South after the Civil War, but most importantly, it is a place of military tradition that honors the sacrifice of those who have served.

There were three major turning points in the 19th century that set Arlington on its path to become our national shrine:

  • First, by the end of the Civil War, there were more than 15,500 soldiers buried at Arlington, more than any of the other, 33 national cemeteries.
  • Second, in 1868, General John Logan, the Commander-In-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, designated May 30th as Decoration Day. Arlington National Cemetery became the location of the first national observance. In the early 1870s, Arlington’s Decoration Day Observance drew crowds of 25,000 a year – more than the population of Washington, DC at the time.
  • Third, in the 1870s through the 1890s, many of the Union generals from the Civil War wanted to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, along with the troops that they lead.

In the 1900s, Arlington became the symbol of reconciliation. In 1900, Congress authorized a Confederate section be established at Arlington National Cemetery. Confederate veterans were moved there from around Arlington National Cemetery, the Soldier’s Home cemetery, and Alexandria Cemetery. Today, there are 482 Confederate veterans buried at Arlington.

In 1906, Congress authorized the construction of a Confederate Memorial. It was designed by the famed sculptor and Confederate veteran Moses Ezekiel. The memorial was dedicated in June 1914. Ezekiel is buried there today.

The Memorial Bridge was built between 1922 and 1932 as a symbol to link the North and South. Arlington House is directly aligned with Memorial Bridge and the Lincoln Memorial. The Memorial Bridge ties Arlington National Cemetery to the District of Columbia and makes visiting the cemetery more accessible.

In 1955, the Arlington House was officially designated as the Robert E. Lee Memorial.

The first repatriations of U.S. service members from overseas were buried at Arlington National Cemetery, including the sailors who perished on the USS Maine from the Spanish-American War.

The Old Amphitheater was not able to accommodate the large crowds that came each year for Memorial Day, so Congress authorized the construction of the Memorial Amphitheater. Construction began in 1915 and it was dedicated in 1920.

This is the moment when you all become a part of Arlington’s rich history. On March 4, 1921, Congress approved the burial of an unidentified American soldier from World War I in the plaza of the new Memorial Amphitheater. The World War One Unknown was buried on Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1921. The vigil of guarding the Tomb began in 1926. The white marble sarcophagus was placed above the grave of the Unknown Soldier of World War One in 1931. It is inscribed: “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”

President William Howard Taft was the first president buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The death and burial of President John F. Kennedy forever changed Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington was important to the military community, but the burial of President Kennedy propelled the cemetery onto the international stage. Television allowed the world to witness the rich military tradition of Arlington National Cemetery.

Seven million people visited the cemetery in the year after President Kennedy’s burial. Arlington’s burial requests grew exponentially each year after the president’s death and the cemetery was predicted to run out of burial space in the 1980s if it did not enact eligibility restrictions and expand the footprint of the cemetery. The first eligibility restrictions for burial at Arlington National Cemetery were established in 1967.

ANC 150

This year marks our 150th year as a national cemetery. This past summer, Arlington National Cemetery hosted five weeks of events from May through June that honored Arlington’s traditions, remembered the sacrifice of those who are buried here and explored our rich history. We started with a wreath laying ceremony on May 13 at the gravesite of Army Pvt. William Christman, who was the first military person buried at Arlington, and had ten days of informative lectures and tours. Our capstone event was a first-ever evening show in the Memorial Amphitheater that paid tribute to Arlington’s past, present, and future. We concluded our commemoration with a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on June 16, the day after Arlington officially became a national cemetery.

Enhancements to the Memorial Amphitheater

For the first time in four decades, the Memorial Amphitheater Display Room has been updated. The new exhibits provide the 3.5 million plus visitors who visit the Tomb each year the historical context that had been missing. They tell the story of Arlington National Cemetery, the Memorial Amphitheater, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

In addition, they help our visitors understand the history of the Tomb Guards, who maintain their constant vigil over our Unknown, and tells a brief story of the history and role of The Old Guard.

Going forward, we will renovate the top floor and lower level, as well. This will give us additional space for exhibits and opportunities for visitors to explore the rich history of the Memorial Amphitheater.

We are in the process of replacing the flagstone around the Memorial Amphitheater and other parts of the cemetery. We expect to have this project complete in 2015. We’ve partnered with the National Park Service Historic Preservation Training Center to clean the Memorial Amphitheater. We have finished cleaning the marble benches inside the Amphitheater and is currently testing products for the exterior.

  • Tomb Guard Passes
  • Flexible parking for those serving now
  • PT “Old Guard” morning
  • Ceremonial cannon battery practice
  • ANC Staff appreciate and respect

We’ve recently put in all new appliances in the Guard Quarters and will renovate the Briefing Room early next year. The renovation will include new historical exhibits and overhead lighting.

Looking at the future

Families come from all over the country to bury their loved ones at Arlington National Cemetery and you may wonder how long it will it will remain an active cemetery. I’m pleased to tell you that Arlington will be available for decades to come. The Army remains committed to maintaining Arlington as an active cemetery for as long as possible to continue to honor and serve our Nation’s military heroes.

In support of that commitment, last year we completed the construction of Columbarium Court 9. It is the largest Columbarium Court at Arlington – it is nearly the length of two football fields and added 20,296 burial niches for cremated remains. Columbarium Court 9 extended the cemetery’s projected capability to accept cremated remains from 2016 until approximately 2024.

Construction has started on the Millennium Project, which is the expansion in the northern part of the cemetery. When construction is complete, it will add more than 27,000 new burial spaces for both casketed and cremated remains (est 2035).

Our last expansion project is on the southern side of the cemetery, into the land formerly occupied by the Navy Annex. We are in the earliest stages of project planning and will create a project concept that is both an appropriate expansion to the cemetery and a place of honor for our veterans and their families. Although it is too early to tell what the final development will yield for the southern expansion site, we project that with the Millennium and the southern expansion, the cemetery will have first interment space through the mid-2050s.

100th Anniversary of World War One

As part of the centennial observance of the First World War, the United Kingdom is honoring all of its Victoria Cross recipients. The Victoria Cross is equal to the U.S. Medal of Honor and was awarded to only five Americans during World War One, including the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. On November 21, 1921, the British government presented our World War One Unknown with its highest honor, the Victoria Cross. On November 6th, representatives of the United Kingdom will conduct a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as well as unveil a bronze plaque dedicated to all five of our American Victoria Cross recipients. This plaque will remain on display in the Amphitheater Display Room through the World War One centennial and the 100th anniversary of Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 2021.

Approaching the Tomb Centennial

The 100th anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is quickly approaching. I’ve met with the centennial planning committee and look forward to marking this important milestone in Arlington’s history. We are submitting a request to the U.S. Postal Service and members of the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee to create a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier commemoration stamp for the 100th anniversary. The process takes a number of years, but we think the Tomb is a strong candidate because it is THE symbol of honor and remembrance, the epitome of our military’s selfless service and sacrifice for the people of our great country.

“The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and every patriots grave, to every living heart and hearthstone” (AL – Prez – USA)

I thank each of you for all that you have done and continue to do to honor the service and sacrifice of our military members – past and present. We must never lose sight of the sacred trust we have held and continue to hold. Arlington – and its legacy – is far bigger than any of us – we are the temporary stewards – part of a small, yet powerful team of dedicated men and women who’s been privileged to serve at such a remarkable place.

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