Arlington National Cemetery Reopens to Public, But Most-Visited Sites Still Off-Limits

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The Arlington Memorial Amphitheater sits adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery.
The Arlington Memorial Amphitheater sits adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA. The cemetery was dedicated on May 15, 1920. (U.S. Air Force/Master Sgt. Kendra Owenby)

Arlington National Cemetery will reopen to the general public Wednesday after a six-month shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But its most visited sites, such as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, will remain off-limits, the cemetery said in a release Tuesday.

Beginning Wednesday, the hallowed cemetery in Virginia, across the Potomac from Washington, D.C., will be open to the public from 8 a.m. to noon for visits to gravesites only. Face coverings and social distancing will still be required at all times, the cemetery said.

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However, "several places of interest will remain closed to assure health protection conditions," it added. "These sites include the John F. Kennedy gravesite, the Memorial Amphitheater and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier."

Exhibits in the Welcome Center will also remain closed.

"As conditions in the National Capital Region have continued to improve, our goal is to provide increased access for the public to visit a loved one's gravesite. We hope this limited reopening will better accommodate our visitors," said Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director of the cemetery.

The Women in Military Service for America Memorial at one of the cemetery's entrances also will remain closed.

Arlington House, the former Custis-Lee Mansion, is the former home of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and Mary Custis Lee. Managed by the National Park Service and currently undergoing renovation, it will also remain closed to the public, the cemetery said.

The lifting of the restriction on the public is expected to lead to an increase in burials at Arlington. Many families of veterans eligible for burial there, including several Medal of Honor recipients who died in recent months, put off burial until larger gatherings could attend the services.

"Arlington National Cemetery staff will be monitoring all aspects of the cemetery in order to prepare for a full opening in the near future," said Charles "Ray" Alexander Jr., the cemetery's superintendent.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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