For much of this summer, combat-injured Marine veteran and double-amputee Toran Gaal has been on a cross-country cycling trip to Arlington.
On June 1, Gaal set off from San Diego on his “Ride Across America,” an almost 4,000 mile trek which he will complete entirely on a hand-cycle.
Gaal embarked on the journey to raise money and awareness for the Semper Fi Fund, the charity that helped him recover after he was severely injured in an IED explosion in Afghanistan in 2011. Following the explosion, Gaal was comatose for two months and lost both legs and part of his hip.
“[The Semper Fi Fund] is doing so much good for every branch,” said Gaal. “I wanted to pay it forward to the next generation.”
Gaal will have been on the road for 65 days by the time he’s expected to arrive in Arlington this Sunday, Aug. 2. He will have stopped in close to 50 other towns and cities along the way. At the end of his ride, he will place a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
Brian Riley, fellow combat-injured Marine veteran, is accompanying Gaal on the road in a support vehicle.
Photo via www.hisshoesmove.com
Honoring War Dead at ANC — At the annual Memorial Day service in Arlington National Cemetery on Monday, President Obama said the country should “never stop trying to fully repay” Americans who have died in battle. It was the first Memorial Day in 14 years without a major American ground war — the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan ended in December. Over the weekend, Boy Scouts and other volunteers placed some 88,000 roses on the graves at the cemetery. [Associated Press, Stars and Stripes]
Post Endorses Cristol, Fallon — The Washington Post’s Editorial Board has endorsed Katie Cristol and Peter Fallon in the upcoming Democratic Arlington County Board primary. The Post lauded Cristol’s “drive and intelligence” and Fallon’s “command of policy.” The political action committee that represents Arlington public school teachers, meanwhile, has endorsed Fallon and Christian Dorsey. [Washington Post, InsideNova]
County’s Bond Rating Reaffirmed — The three major credit rating agencies have reaffirmed Arlington’s triple-A bond rating, the highest rating possible. There are only 39 counties, including Arlington, that have a perfect triple-triple-A rating. “Retaining the County’s AAA ratings is critical to ensuring the absolute lowest interest rates on our General Obligation bonds,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in a press release. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Memorial Day Closures — Arlington County government offices, courts, schools, and community centers will be closed on Monday for the Memorial Day holiday. Arlington’s public indoor pools will be open, trash and recycling will be collected and ART buses will operate on a holiday schedule. [Arlington County]
Flags In at Arlington National Cemetery — More than 1,000 soldiers from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, also known as the Old Guard, placed small American flags in front some 275,000 headstones at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday. The annual ceremony, known as “Flags In,” has been taking place before Memorial Day for more than 60 years. [U.S. Army]
Arlington Man Convicted of Sexual Abuse — Arlington resident Gary Hankins, a 45-year-old former licensed clinical social worker, has been convicted of sexually abusing a 17-year-old patient. The boy’s parents first contacted authorities after they discovered sexually suggestive texts from Hankins on his phone. [NBC Washington]
Candidates Bash Board’s Reevesland Vote — The Democratic candidates for County Board are criticizing the County Board’s vote this week to sell the historic Reeves farmhouse. At a debate lacking one candidate — School Board Chair James Lander, who had a School Board meeting — candidates took turns bashing the decision, calling it “shameful,” “bad business” and “beneath Arlington.” [InsideNova, Washington Post]
APS to Discuss Swanson, Williamsburg Plans — Next month Arlington Public Schools will hold public forums to discuss “interim options” for addressing capacity issues at Swanson and Williamsburg Middle Schools. “These interim solution options include the use of both on-site or off-site locations to house some portion of the school populations, the possibility of some interior redesign, the use of relocatables as part of the solution, and changes in scheduling,” APS said in a press release. [Arlington Public Schools]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin
Chicken Restaurant’s Name Goes National — ARLnow.com’s story about Chingon Pollo, the new chicken restaurant in Buckingham with a potentially vulgar name, has gone national. Last night it was picked up by the Jezebel sub-blog Kitchenette. While our most likely translation of the name — there are a number of potential translations — was “f-ckload of chicken,” Kitchenette translated it as “top f-cker chicken.” Meanwhile, in order to not run “a fowl” of authorities, the restaurant has officially changed its name to “Charcoal Chicken.” [Kitchenette]
New Burial Sites at ANC to Open Next Year — Arlington National Cemetery will open more than 27,000 new burial sites next year, as part of its Millennium Project expansion initiative. Local environmentalists and preservationists protested the expansion. [U.S. Army]
Crowdsourced Bike Rack Map — Arlington County is launching a free crowdsourced map of places to park one’s bicycle. RackSpotter, as it’s called, will rely on users to contribute information on the location and size of bike racks. [Bike Arlington]
Marymount to Buy Portable Planetarium — Marymount University has completed fundraising for a new portable planetarium. The planetarium, which is set up in a tent, will be brought to schools in Arlington, Fairfax and a number of other local counties. [InsideNova]
Crystal House Renovations — Roseland, the owner of the Crystal House apartments in Crystal City, says it’s embarking on a multi-phase renovation of the 828-unit complex. The renovations will spruce up the main lobby, grounds, pool, community common areas and the apartments themselves. “New state-of-the-art washers and dryers are being added to each building’s studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments,” according to a press release. “Further, full renovations to approximately half of the community’s 828 apartments will include upgraded kitchens with new appliances, upgraded fixtures and finishes in the bathrooms, and new flooring throughout.” A PR rep declined to say how much the renovations will cost.
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
More than 25,000 volunteers are expected to flock to Arlington National Cemetery tomorrow (Saturday, Dec. 13) to place wreaths on the graves of hundreds of thousands of veterans for the holidays.
The group Wreaths Across America, now in its 23rd year, hopes to place wreaths on all 230,000 graves in the cemetery this year.
An opening ceremony will be held at 9:00 a.m. at the McClellan Arch, and volunteers will begin laying wreaths at 9:30 a.m. Separate wreath laying ceremonies are planned at the President Kennedy gravesite, the USS Maine Mast and the Tomb of the Unknowns.
Instructions on how to volunteer and how to get to the cemetery (take Metro, don’t drive) are available on the Wreaths Across America website and in the video above.
Flickr pool photo by Sunday Money
According to Animal Welfare League of Arlington Chief Animal Control Officer Alice Burton, the coyote was struck at about 9:30 a.m. on Route 110 near Arlington National Cemetery.
The responding animal control officer — who works for AWLA, the county’s provider of animal control services — removed the coyote from the scene and brought it back to AWLA, where it had to be euthanized, Burton said.
Arlington’s only previous confirmed sighting of a coyote was in April 2012, courtesy of a wildlife camera set up in Potomac Overlook Regional Park. Other sightings reported by residents have either been foxes or dogs mistaken for coyotes, Burton said.
Despite the cemetery’s location in the heart of the county, Burton said it didn’t strike her as shocking that that’s where the animal was found.
“Right by the cemetery you have pretty quick access to D.C., and I know Rock Creek Parkway has had problems with coyotes,” she told ARLnow.com. “I believe they’ve had more confirmations [of coyotes] in D.C. than we have.”
Arlington’s Natural Resource Manager Alonso Abugattas confirmed that the animal found was a coyote. The female was about 27 pounds — the average adult weighs about 30 pounds — but had young teeth, a bushy tails and many other indicators Abugattas used to confirm the species.
“It’s very small for a coyote but is much too big to be a fox,” he said. “It’s very slender, has no microchips or tattoos to indicate it’s a pet.”
Abugattas said although coyotes are rare in Arlington, the second one spotted in two years is no cause for alarm; the animals don’t present a danger to humans.
“The reality is, I don’t think they’re going to be any kind of issue,” he said. “These animals learn to live next to humans and not mess with humans. I don’t believe they would cause any kinds of issues to the public. There have been cases, however, where feral cats and loose dogs, coyotes will occasionally eat a smaller dog, both as a competitor and as prey. Cats are considered prey as well. That’s the only way that they might affect the public.”
File photo via Wikipedia
Utility Pole Struck on Glebe Road — A car struck a utility pole on Glebe Road near 14th Street N., just before 9:30 last night. All lanes were closed while crews worked to clear the downed pole from the roadway. All lanes reopened by 5:00 this morning.
Rosslyn Metro Center For Sale — Rosslyn Metro Center, the 22-story office building above the Rosslyn Metro station, is for sale. Should it sell, the buyer would likely seek to redevelop the property. [Washington Business Journal]
Goal: Wreath for Every ANC Grave — The group Wreaths Across America is seeking about 25,000 volunteers to help lay 235,000 holiday wreaths in Arlington National Cemetery on Dec. 13. For the first time, in honor of the cemetery’s 150th anniversary, the group wants to lay a wreath on every grave. [Washington Times – WARNING: AUTO-PLAY VIDEO]
RedRocks Seeks Entertainment, Delivery Permit — The Columbia Pike outpost of RedRocks Pizzeria (2501 9th Road S.) is seeking a site plan amendment to allow live entertainment and food delivery service. The request, which is expected to be approved by the Arlington County Board this weekend, has the “full support” of the local civic association. [Arlington County]
Crystal Tech Fund Expansion — Crystal City-based Crystal Tech Fund has started construction on an expansion project that will double the size of its workspace. [Tech Cocktail]
GOP Oppo Firm Resides in Arlington — America Rising, one of the top Republican opposition research firms during this latest campaign cycle, has its office “in a nondescript building in Arlington.” [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Rob Cannon
Tickets Could Become More Costly — Tickets for traffic offenses and minor criminal cases could be getting more expensive in Arlington. The County Board is expected to vote on a new $5 surcharge that would be tacked on to tickets to help pay for an electronic summons system for the Arlington County Police Department. [InsideNova]
Long Wait for Arlington Burials — Arlington National Cemetery has a “burial backlog.” The average wait time to bury a service member at the cemetery is nearly 6 months, according to an analysis by a Florida newspaper. [News-Press]
N. Va. Senior Olympics Kick Off — The annual Northern Virginia Senior Olympics kicked off at Thomas Jefferson Community Center in Arlington on Saturday. “Olympic” events like Scrabble, Wii bowling and badminton are scheduled at the community center and other venues around Northern Virginia through Sept. 24. [Northern Virginia Senior Olympics]
Photo courtesy Erinn Shirley
Traffic Impacts Due to Military Funeral — Military officials are warning of possible traffic impacts in Arlington due to a full honors funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. Army Maj. Gen. Harold Greene will be laid to rest today beginning at 2:00 p.m. A Falls Church resident, Greene was killed on Aug. 5 in Afghanistan; he’s the highest-ranking U.S. military casualty since Vietnam. Officials say Greene’s funeral could impact traffic on Washington Blvd at the Fort Myer exit and on Route 110 at Marshall Drive.
Partisans Support Nonpartisan Redistricting — Democrat Rip Sullivan and Republican Dave Foster, candidates for the 48th District House of Delegates seat, agree on at least one thing: that Virginia’s redistricting process should be nonpartisan. While support for nonpartisan redistricting may be growing, it is unclear if it could pass the General Assembly. [InsideNova]
Capriotti’s Opening Nears — Originally slated to open on July 29, the new Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop at 1500 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn now has a new opening date. A spokeswoman says the shop — the Delaware-based chain’s first in Virginia — will first open to the general public on Monday, Aug. 25.
County Fair Carnies Profiled — Who are those smiling carnival workers working the rides and games at the Arlington County Fair? They’re fun-loving nomads who sleep in bunkhouses and travel throughout the East Coast and the South during fair season. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
APS Still Looking for Teachers — Officials with Arlington Public Schools are still searching for teachers for the 2014-2015 school year, which is only about three weeks away. APS would like about 75 more new teachers in addition to the 225 it already hired. [InsideNova]
Att’y Gen. Asks Supreme Court to Hear Gay Marriage Case — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has, as expected, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the state’s gay marriage case. Herring agrees with the gay marriage ban being struck down, but believes the Supreme Court should look at the case because it could set a nationwide precedent. Last month, Arlington County Clerk of the Circuit Court Paul Ferguson told ARLnow.com he was waiting for guidance from Herring and would begin performing gay marriages as soon as he received word they would be valid. [Daily Press]
Cemetery to Change Dates on Monument — Arlington National Cemetery has agreed to change the date on a monument to a World War II bomber crew lost in 1944. The stone monument currently shows the year 1946 — which is the year the Army officially classified the crew members as dead — but the plane went missing in 1944. Family members of the crew have been trying to get the date changed for about 12 years. [Stars and Stripes]
Central Library to Loan Garden Tools — Residents soon will be able to borrow garden tools from Central Library. A start date hasn’t yet been set because the library is still gathering gently used tool donations and signing up volunteers to assist with the program. Those interested in helping out or donating tools can get more information online. [Arlington Public Library]
Silver Line Now Open for Business — Metro’s Silver Line opened Saturday, with local officials, reporters and curious residents crowding the new stations in Reston and Tysons to get a ride on the first Silver Line trains. So far this morning, on the first big commuting day of its debut, the Silver Line seems to be functioning normally, without incident. Over time, the Metrorail line is expected to bring further economic development to Tysons and Reston. [Reston Now, Washington Post, InsideNova]
Nation’s Oldest Female Vet Visits Arlington — The nation’s oldest female veteran, 108-year-old Army Staff Sgt. Lucy Coffey, visited the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery over the weekend. [Stars and Stripes]
Pizza Vinoteca Opening Delayed — Pizza Vinoteca, a New York City-based gourmet pizza restaurant, will not be opening in Ballston this month, as originally planned. The pizzeria is now expected to open at 800 N. Glebe Road by the end of August, according to a PR rep.
Arlington County has hired a lobbying firm to help facilitate a planned land swap between the county, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Department of Defense.
As outlined in a memorandum of understanding last year, the county is planning to hand over the right-of-way for Southgate Road, near the Air Force Memorial, to the DoD, which plans to use the land — along with the former Navy Annex grounds and part of the state’s current Columbia Pike right-of-way — for an expansion of Arlington National Cemetery’s burial grounds.
As revealed in a recent public disclosure, the county has hired Alexandria-based lobbying firm Congressional Strategies LLC to help move the transaction along. The land swap has already passed the House of Representatives and is now included in the under-consideration U.S. Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act, according to Brian Stout, the county’s federal liaison.
The county’s contract with Congressional Strategies calls for a $5,000 monthly retainer for all services and runs through October, with an option to be extended through June 2015, according to county spokeswoman Mary Curtius.
“The purpose of the lobbying contract is to facilitate and bring to closure the Navy Annex Land Exchange project,” Curtius said. “This involves advocacy in both the legislative and executive branches to supplement the efforts of County staff.”
The land swap will benefit the county in several ways.
Arlington will receive a sizable parcel of land south of Columbia Pike, on which the county hopes to build an Arlington County and Freedman’s Village history museum, additional parking and facilities for the Air Force Memorial, and other amenities that do not detract from “the dignity, honor, and solemnity of Arlington National Cemetery.”
Also, the exchange will facilitate a realignment of Columbia Pike and its intersection with S. Joyce Street. The realigned Pike will take a more direct path to S. Joyce Street, through the former Navy Annex parking lot, and will provide a better alignment for the future Columbia Pike streetcar.
In addition to an expansion of Arlington National Cemetery, the DoD plans to use some of the land in the swap, near the Pike/Joyce intersection for a future visitor center for the Pentagon Memorial. The Senate is expected to vote on the NDAA later this year.
(Updated at 2:40 p.m.) Arlington House, the former home of Robert E. Lee on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery, received a major donation this week.
D.C. philanthropist David Rubenstein, co-founder of private equity firm The Carlyle Group, donated $12.35 million to the National Park Service “to restore and improve access to Arlington House.” The donation will fund a project that will restore Arlington House “as it was in 1860,” including more attention to the slave quarters. The money will also fund technology investments, with more mobile and web “assets,” an audio tour and a virtual tour, NPS said.
“I am honored to support the National Park Service’s renovation of historic Arlington House built in honor of George Washington and located on hallowed ground atop Arlington National Cemetery,” Rubenstein said in the release. “I hope that upon its restoration, Arlington House will appropriately remind visitors of America’s rich history and our country’s good fortune to have such a unique site to honor our veterans, especially those who gave the last full measure of devotion on behalf of this nation.”
Arlington House went through a round of renovations 2-3 years ago — including work done to repair damage from the 2011 mid-Atlantic earthquake.
The Washington Post reported that Rubenstein, a billionaire, decided to make the donatation after funding half of the Washington Monument’s post-earthquake repairs. NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis suggested the $12.35 million repair project for Arlington House — described as languishing in “embarrassing” condition — to which Rubenstein simply replied, “be glad to do that.”
Arlington House was built by George Washington Parke Custis — and, the NPS points out, his slaves — between 1802 and 1818 as a memorial to George Washington, before it was the home to Lee and his plantation. The plantation was used as a base for Union soldiers during the Civil War, as a community for freed slaves after the Emancipation Proclamation and, later, as a military cemetery.
The NPS says more than 650,000 people visit the house every year, making it the country’s most-visited house museum. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), the ranking member on the Interior and Environment Appropriations Committee, which oversees the National Parks, issued a statement after Rubenstein announced his gift yesterday.
“On behalf of 8th District voters and local history buffs I’d like to thank Mr. Rubenstein for his generous gift,” Moran said. “I’ve been a supporter of Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial, throughout my 24 years representing the people of Northern Virginia. Mr. Rubenstein’s philanthropy allows the flexibility needed to restore this historic site, working beyond the constraints of public funding to build on the restoration work already completed by the National Park Service.”
(Updated at 5:30 p.m.) Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Robert Terrill, 92, has been identified as the man found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday.
Terrill, a Falls Church resident, was declared dead on the scene Friday morning in Section 64 of the cemetery, near the Columbarium Courts, according to a press release. He suffered what was reported by first responders to be a gunshot wound to his head.
“Although we have not completely ruled it out in order to conduct a complete and thorough investigation, we do not suspect foul play at this point in the investigation,” said Chris Grey, the spokesman for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, which is the lead agency investigating the death. Officials said the incident is unprecedented for Arlington National Cemetery.
“The cemetery is not aware of an incident such as this previously happening in the cemetery,” said the press release.
Terrill reportedly served in World War II before being commissioned in 1946. According to an Air Force spokesman, he flew more than 8,000 hours as a command pilot before retiring from his last duty assignment at the Pentagon in 1968.
Initial reports suggest a man shot himself in the head with a shotgun around 10:20 a.m. Paramedics determined the man to be dead on the scene.
The shooting was reported to have happened near the Pentagon Monument in Section 64, within view of the Pentagon at the southeastern corner of the cemetery. The Pentagon Monument is where remains of the victims of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon were buried.
After the man was pronounced dead by medics, the scene was turned over law enforcement for an investigation.
Arlington National Cemetery issued the following press release about the incident Friday afternoon:
At approximately 10:00 a.m. today, first responders to include Military Police from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Special Agents from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command and Arlington County Police Department Officers, responded to reports of a single gunshot at Arlington National Cemetery in Section 64, near the Columbarium Courts. Upon arrival, a deceased male was discovered with a single gunshot wound.
“Although we have not completely ruled it out in order to conduct a complete and thorough investigation, we do not suspect foul play at this point in the investigation,” said Chris Grey, the spokesman for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, the lead agency investigating the death.
All indications are this is a tragic and isolated incident and there is no threat to the public or those visiting Arlington National Cemetery. The cemetery remains open to visitors and families and graveside services are continuing as planned.
No further information will be released at this time to protect the integrity of the investigative process and until the deceased is positively identified and next of kin is officially notified.
If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, help is a phone call away. Call CrisisLink at 703-527-4077.