Arlington National Cemetery Gains Another Famed American in Kennedy

Senator Kennedy to be buried in historic cemetery

Sen. Edward Kennedy today joined thousands of influential Americans buried in Arlington National Cemetery, which has become known as the final resting place for the nation's greatest.

"The ideals of democracy are displayed in the deeds and sacrifices of the men and women interred in Arlington National Cemetery," said George Dodge, a historian and author of the book "Arlington National Cemetery."

VIDEO: Political World Remembers Ted Kennedy

"Sen. Kennedy belongs there," said Dodge.

Kennedy, who will be buried 100 feet away from his older brothers President John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, was flanked by a Joint Casket Team, which consists of members from all armed-service branches, an Army Firing Party and an Army Bugler who will play "Taps."

"There is nothing like a service at Arlington National Cemetery," said Dodge.

The 300,000 bodies buried at Arlington include two U.S. presidents (Kennedy and President William Howard Taft), five five-star military generals and admirals, 12 Supreme Court justices, veterans from all of the nation's wars and nearly 3,800 former slaves.

It is the resting place of a long list of famed Americans, including former heavyweight champion boxer Joe Louis, World War II hero and actor Audie Murphy and astronaut Lt. Col. Virgil "Gus" Grissom, one of the original NASA astronauts who was killed in a 1967 fire aboard his Apollo spacecraft.

Kennedy's body arrived via hearse, not a caisson -- the wheeled, horse-drawn carrier reserved for the highest ranking military officials and presidents.

The traditional ceremony for a member of Congress includes pallbearers carrying a flag-draped casket to the grave site, with a military rifle squad firing volleys of salute.

Kennedy spent Thursday and Friday lying in repose in the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum. The term lying in repose is when the body of an individual is housed for public viewing prior to its burial.

Lying in state, in which the body is placed in the rotunda in the capital in Washington, D.C., for public mourning, is reserved for presidents, president-elects, former presidents or individuals designated by the president.

Kennedy Burial Gave Arlington National Cemetery Prominence

Long before the President John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy were buried in Arlington, the cemetery was known for something quite different, according to Dodge.

"The cemetery began during the American Civil War as a place where soldiers whose families couldn't afford to have them brought home were buried," said Dodge. "But now it's the most renowned cemetery in the country."

Arlington House, the 19th-century mansion on the cemetery's grounds, was initially intended as a living memorial to George Washington and was was owned and constructed by the first president's adopted grandson, George Washington Parke Custis. Custis' only child, a daughter, married Robert E. Lee, who later served as a custodian of the property and lived there briefly before commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the Civil War.

Arlington National Cemetery opened on May 13, 1864, but it wasn't until more than two decades later in 1888 when Philip Henry Sheridan, a Union General in the Civil War, was buried that the gravesite began to gain stature.

More and more high-ranking military servicemen and women were buried in Arlington, as well as President William Howard Taft in 1930, over the next several decades, helping the cemetery gain national prominence.

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