Author: Jenifer Leigh Van Vleck, PhD, Historian
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NASA Honors Astronauts Buried at ANC

We are here to remember so that we never repeat the mistakes of the past,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told a gathering of more than 100 NASA employees, family members and friends at Arlington National Cemetery on Jan. 25, 2024, NASA’s annual Day of Remembrance. “Because of Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia, we honor 17 souls deep in our hearts.” Traditionally held on the fourth Thursday in January, the NASA Day of Remembrance commemorates the crews of Apollo 1 and space shuttles Challenger and Columbia—all of whom are honored with monuments at ANC. The timing of the annual remembrance reflects the anniversaries of the three disasters, which happened to occur between the dates of Jan. 27 and Feb. 1.

Ida Lewis, "The Bravest Woman in America"

Ida Lewis, the namesake of Arlington National Cemetery’s Lewis Drive, was once known as “the bravest woman in America.” Lewis served as an official lighthouse keeper for the U.S. Lighthouse Service (later absorbed into the Coast Guard) from 1879 until her death, at age 69, in 1911. 

Contract Historian
Jenifer Leigh Van Vleck

Honoring the Life and Legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

It is fitting that one of the most important women in American history had a birthday in March, Women’s History Month. Ruth Bader Ginsburg — Supreme Court justice, cultural icon, and indefatigable champion of gender equality — was born on March 15, 1933. She is buried in Section 5 of Arlington National Cemetery, next to her husband, Martin Ginsburg, an attorney and U.S. Army veteran.   

A Tragedy After the Unknown’s Funeral: Charles Whittlesey and the Costs of Heroism

On November 24, 1921, two weeks after he and other Medal of Honor recipients participated in the funeral of the Unknown Soldier, Colonel Charles Whittlesey boarded the S.S. Toloa, en route to Havana, Cuba from New York. At the beginning of the voyage, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. On November 26, around 11:30 PM, Whittlesey announced that he was retiring for the night. He was never seen or heard from again. 

Contract Historian
Jenifer Leigh Van Vleck

Teaching and Learning About the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

As part of Arlington National Cemetery’s new Education Program, an educational module on the history and significance of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is available at The module is a resource for teachers, students and adult “lifelong learners.” It includes lesson plans, assignments and primary source readings for elementary, middle and high school students, as well as self-guided walking tours that can be used to explore the cemetery either virtually or in person. Lesson plans align with national and state social studies standards and can be easily adapted for homeschooling or virtual learning.

Commemorating National Native American Heritage Month

During National Native American Heritage Month, we are proud to honor the life and legacy of Zitkála-Ša (Gertrude Simmons Bonnin), who is buried in Section 2, Grave 4703. Zitkála-Ša, whose name means “Red Bird,” was one of the most important American Indian activists and writers of the 20th century.

245th Birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps

On November 10, 1775, the Continental Congress authorized two battalions of Marines to be raised. Two weeks later, Samuel Nicholas was commissioned a Captain of Marines by the Continental Congress. He is traditionally regarded as the first Commandant of the Marine Corps. Read our guest blog post from the National Museum of the Marine Corps to learn more about important moments in Marine Corps history. 

Secretaries of State at ANC: Alexander Haig, Four-Star Diplomat

Eight secretaries of state are buried at Arlington National Cemetery. In honor of the State Department’s birthday, today we examine the life and legacy of Alexander Haig (Section 30, Grave 418-LH), a four-star general who served as President Ronald Reagan’s first secretary of state. 

Fighting on Two Fronts: The 442nd Regimental Combat Team

In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, today we highlight the U.S. Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT), which fought in World War II. More than twenty members of the 442nd are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Memorial Amphitheater’s 100 Years of History: A Firsthand Look

Living Legacies: When an ANC historian helped open Memorial Amphitheater’s 100-year-old time capsule, he discovered his own family’s history.