05.28.17: A reminder

A sign reminds visitors to Arlington National Cemetery about proper behavior, Arlington, Va. 


Technical information

Sept. 5, 2007,
4:28 p.m.

38°52’37” N,
77°4'17" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 20D

Canon EF 28-135 f/3.5-5.6 (85mm)  


1/60th second


Arlington National Cemetery, the nation’s military cemetery across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., is a very solemn place — most of the time, anyway.

Even with reminder signs placed throughout the cemetery grounds, there are still some people who do not know how to behave in a cemetery.

For instance, there was the woman who posted a photo on Facebook of her yelling while giving “the finger” toward one of these sign. Her employer didn’t find it humorous. 

And there was the video that went viral, showing a guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns forcefully chastising people who were talking very loudly in the small amphitheater overlooking the tomb.

This behavior in a cemetery is troubling, but it fits in with the lack of respect for social norms that I see almost daily. It seems as if American society has become less respectful through the years, focusing more on “what I want” than “what is right.”

When I read about the behavior issues in Arlington National Cemetery I immediately thought of my mom and dad. Every year on Memorial Day we would go to the local cemetery to place flowers on graves of relatives, some that I remembered and some that had passed before I was born. My parents stressed the importance of proper behavior in the cemetery: no loud talking or laughing, no running, no sitting/standing/leaning on grave markers or monuments. In other words, show respect. A cemetery is a place of mourning, a place of remembrance, they said. It isn’t a playground.

I’ve never forgotten. Apparently others have … or they never learned in the first place.

If my mother knew about this behavior she’d be spinning in her grave, unless she had already been disturbed by a cemetery visitor talking loud enough to wake the dead.

End of rant.

Arlington National Cemetery was established during the Civil War. The dead of the nation’s conflicts have been buried at the 624-acre site, beginning with the Civil War. Arlington also has graves of reinterred dead from earlier wars. The cemetery has more than 400,000 graves and is visited by more than 4 million people each year. 

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.