As Washington, DC and the nation say goodbye to Teddy Kennedy, I thought I'd take this week to share with you the stories behind the grave sites of the Kennedy Family in the Washington area.
We'll start, of course, with the Lion of the Senate, Sen. Edward Moore Kennedy, who was interred at Arlington National Cemetery this Saturday in a moving twilight ceremony.
One question I often receive about famous people buried at Arlington regards eligibility. Normally, when I give a tour, I list three eligibility categories for folks to buried here: 20 years of active duty service, died while on active duty, or awarded a Purple Heart, Silver Star, or higher medal. All of these are true, but I leave off about ten other categories for time's (and simplicity's) sake. They cover less common situations, such as Prisoners of War, Presidents, and such.
So, before I get it, and I will many times this season, let me answer it know: Why is Sen. Kennedy buried here if he didn't serve 20 years? Quite true, and it's a fact that he only served two years in the U.S. Army (we'll leave of why he wasn't in school at the time). But a closer reading of the eligibility requirements will show that eligibility is provided by any former member of the Armed Forces who has held "an elective office of the U.S. Government". So Teddy is clearly welcome to be buried here, next to his brothers.
We'll talk more about why his family is here, but a desire to be close to John and Robert no doubt drove the decision to be buried here, rather than in Massachusetts, the state he served so long as Senator. He is, I understand, exactly 100 feet from Robert's grave, with President Kennedy and family another 100 feet way. The grave is at the base of the hill below Arlington House, in the shade between two mature maple trees. It's a quiet spot, and one that I used as a calm and shady area to discuss the Kennedy's with my tour groups before moving on. I guess I'll have to find somewhere else now.
The grave itself is marked with a simple white oak cross, bringing to exactly two the number of wooden crosses here at Arlington (the other being his brother Robert's). There is a simple marble foot stone inscribed "Edward Moore Kennedy 1932-3009". The grave is set back from the path a bit, and currently a roped off walkway allows visitors to come close to visit and pay you respects. Not, by the way, to text someone (if the gentleman who was blocking the path this morning happens to be reading this).
Tomorrow, we'll discuss President Kennedy, perhaps the most visited grave at Arlington.