Saturday, October 10, 2009

Washington DC Trip Day 2: Arlington National Cemetery

I attended the wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery that was organized as part of the National Equality March scheduled for noon. I stepped off the Metro at 11:30 into the cool and drizzly weather, went through the ornate iron gates, and headed up the hill to the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Walk this way.

Shhhhh. Be vewy, vewy quiet. We're getting closer.

There was definitely an LGBT presence but the crowd was decidedly mixed since so many tourists were visiting. Hard to estimate the numbers in attendance for the Knights Out ceremony. I took the following photo about 11:50 and it definitely became more crowded by noon — maybe 50% more than you see here.

The Memorial Theater is on the left, the sentinel is on the right, and the tomb itself is to the right out of frame. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded by a Tomb Guard sentinel. The tomb is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and in any weather. Sentinels, all volunteers, are considered to be the best of the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard). They pace in front of the tomb in two hour shifts and we were able to see a changing of the guard at noon. It's a process definitely choreographed by a straight guy. Boring and no jazz hands.

An officer holds the wreath before the ceremony.

Openly gay First Lieutenant Daniel Choi returns with a high ranking Navy official after placing the wreath in front of the tomb.

I found my political activist friends Tom and Jim from Orange County among the crowd and I snapped a pic of them with their friend Dan! Jim served in the Navy during Vietnam and was able to meet one of the ceremony's officials that also served during that time.

First Lieutenant Daniel Choi.

From his wikipedia entry:

Daniel Choi (born 1981) is a United States Army combat veteran of the Iraq war who served as an infantry officer. He has become known for challenging America's policy regarding gays serving in its military when he came out of the closet on March 20, 2009 in an appearance on the The Rachel Maddow Show. Since the show, he has become an LGBT rights activist.
The officers depart after the ceremony. I love a man in a uniform!

The engraving on the front of the tomb reads:
This was a great tribute to our fallen and serving-in-silence brothers and sisters.

1 comment:

Mark H said...

Fabulous trip story, Gavin....I wasn't even aware this was happening.... so EXTRA nice to hear about it from a friend who has written about it so beautifully, and pics to boot. NICE post on your trip too.....