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Arlington police officers, sheriff’s deputies and firefighters paid tribute yesterday to Staff Sergeant Darin Taylor Hoover, a Marine from Utah who was among those killed in the Kabul airport bombing last month.

Local first responders saluted “as a symbolic gesture of gratitude” while Hoover’s procession was escorted around the Marine Corps War Memorial, en route from Dover Air Force Base to the Murphy Funeral Home near Ballston. The fallen Marine is being laid to rest today at Arlington National Cemetery.

Hoover’s family called the Utah native a hero who loved the Marine Corps and was beloved by his fellow Marines. He “was doing for others what they couldn’t do for themselves, and he made the ultimate sacrifice doing that,” his father told a local TV station.

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Arlington County firefighters answer the call when someone is in need of help in Arlington. This weekend they provided an assist to a group of legendary Rosslyn area residents cast in bronze.

Friday’s windstorm tangled the flag atop the Marine Corps War Memorial, also known as the Iwo Jima memorial. To help fix it, the fire department at neary Fort Myer requested the assistance of ACFD and its extra-long ladder truck.

“Captain Shawn Pendo, officer in charge of Tower 104, was called on Sunday morning by the Fort Myer Fire Department requesting assistance to fix the flag at the Marine Corps Memorial in Rosslyn,” fire department spokesman Taylor Blunt tells ARLnow. “Captain Pendo quickly rounded up his crew for the special mission.”

“Once they arrived, Firefighter Kristin Pardiny positioned the bucket for her crew to disentangle and inspect the flag’s halyard,” Blunt continued. “The operation was done in under 30 minutes with no damage found.”

It’s not the first time ACFD has been called upon for such a task. But it’s never routine and always an honor, Blunt said.

“Captain Pendo recalled only one other time that Tower 104 was requested to assist with the flag,” said Blunt. “[Pendo] and his crew were honored to fix our nation’s colors at such a hallowed landmark.”

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On Jan. 6, a group of ten or so men — at least one of whom was wearing a tactical earpiece — watched the storming of the U.S. Capitol from across the Potomac in Arlington.

Previously unpublished photos taken by ARLnow that day show the men loitering near the Marine Corps War Memorial, with the overrun Capitol in the background. Parked nearby are numerous vehicles, mostly pickup trucks and SUVs with out-of-state license plates.

One pickup truck, with large toolbox in the back, was left running.

The man with the earpiece appears to have been focused on some sort of communications device with an antenna. He was among a group standing outside, in the cold, wearing hooded sweatshirts and other inconspicuous cold weather gear. None were wearing the tactical vests and helmets that militia members who charged into the Capitol that day wore.

Still, the group was deemed suspicious enough that Arlington County police received at least one call from a passerby, concerned about what they were doing there. An officer drove by after the 4 p.m. call but didn’t see anything, according to police department spokesman Ashley Savage.

“At approximately 4:09 p.m. on January 6, the Emergency Communications Center received a report of 9-10 males acting suspiciously and looking around on the Iwo Jima War Memorial property,” Savage said in response to an inquiry from ARLnow. “The United States Park Police was notified to check the park area. ACPD patrol units checked Meade Street and Arlington property, nothing was located and the call was cleared.”

“I have no additional details to provide,” Savage added.

The photos above were taken by ARLnow staff photographer Jay Westcott around 3:30 p.m., just before Gov. Ralph Northam announced that he was sending the Virginia National Guard into D.C.

In recalling the moment, Westcott — a Navy veteran — said the gathering “had the feeling of a rally point.” He shot the scene from a distance with a 600mm lens, reluctant to get any closer due to potential safety concerns.

By nightfall, the men had dispersed, as ARLnow originally reported in an article about the curfew that night.

It’s unclear what the as-yet unidentified men were doing at the memorial that afternoon. Was their presence purely coincidental, or somehow connected to the pro-Trump rally and subsequent violence at the Capitol?

What is known is that somewhere outside of the District that day, according to federal prosecutors, a “quick reaction force” with a stockpile of weapons was allegedly ready to join the fight if ordered to do so by President Trump.

At a Friday court hearing for Jessica Watkins, a member of the Oath Keepers militia from Ohio who is accused of helping to plot the attack on the Capitol, prosecutors told a federal judge that “[it is] our understanding” that the quick reaction force did exist and was stationed somewhere near D.C.

A court document filed on Feb. 11, as cited by The Daily Beast, details the purpose of the quick reaction force, at least according to federal prosecutors.

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Despite everything that transpired leading up to it, Inauguration Day saw a peaceful transfer of power as now-former President Donald Trump departed the White House and President Joe Biden was sworn in.

Overlooking it all from across the Potomac, Arlington played a bit part in pomp and circumstance.

Those with a vista across the river could catch a clear view this morning of President Trump departing the South Lawn of the White House on Marine One.

The inauguration ceremony that followed was devoid of members of the general public, as security and virus concerns closed the National Mall. Some who wanted to experience history unfold in person headed instead to the Marine Corps War Memorial, near Rosslyn.

A sizable security presence could be seen near the Rosslyn Metro station as the inauguration ceremony concluded and as President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris — joined by former residents Clinton, Bush, Obama — headed via motorcade to Arlington National Cemetery.

Biden and Harris paid their respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before heading back into D.C., via the Memorial Bridge, for their arrival at the White House.

Jay Westcott contributed to this report. Photos (as marked) by Jay Westcott, Joanna Hitt Kim and Kevin Wolf.

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Morning Notes

Big Costco Crowds Over the Weekend — The Pentagon City Costco drew big crowds and long queues of cars over the weekend, as people stocked up on supplies amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. There were some reports of the store running low on items like toilet paper. [Twitter, Twitter]

Vets Visit Iwo Jima Memorial — “This February marks 75 years since the American flag was raised atop Mt. Suribachi, depicted in the famous photograph by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal. That photo became the model for the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. This milestone is the reason a group of more than 50 Battle of Iwo Jima veterans descended on the memorial this week.” [WJLA]

Strong Finishes for W-L Teams — Among other action this weekend, the Washington-Liberty boys placed second in the 6D North Region boys basketball tournament — and will now advance to states — while the W-L girls track team placed third at the state track tournament. [InsideNova, Twitter]

Arlington Deploys Mobile Library Truck — “Arlington Public Library announces the arrival of The Truck, a traveling library designed to hold hundreds of books, games, crafts and DVDs for all ages and interests. The Truck’s first outing will be to Plaza Library on Wednesday, March 4 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.” [Arlington Public Library]

Voice of America Profiles Local Cornhole League — “A number of bars in Arlington, Virginia, offer their customers more than a selection of craft beers and cocktails, they offer them a chance to try their hand at cornhole, a game in which players take turns throwing small bags of corn kernels at a raised platform with a hole in the far end. It’s a unique bit of Americana that’s bringing people together.” [VOA News]

Owners of Bar Bao and The Lot Squabble — “The owners of Social Restaurant Group are accusing one another of fraud, financial mismanagement, and breach of contract in half a dozen lawsuits spanning the past year. The litigation involves at least five restaurants.” [Washingtonian]

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Morning Notes

Dorsey Steps Down from Transportation Board — “The Arlington County Board forced member Christian Dorsey to step down from a second transit board Saturday over a campaign donation from Metro’s largest union, and he apologized for misleading statements he made last month suggesting that he had already returned the money. Dorsey (D), who was reelected to the board in November, said he has sent back the $10,000 donation to the Amalgamated Transit Union and agreed to resign from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.” [Washington Post]

Thousands Attend Buttigieg Rally — Nearly 10,000 people attended Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s campaign rally at Washington-Liberty High School yesterday afternoon. [Twitter, TwitterThe Pete Channel]

Klobuchar Had High Profile Local Landlord — “Chuck Todd — who helped moderate Wednesday night’s Democratic debate — is likely more familiar with one candidate than any other. He was Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s landlord, sources exclusively told Page Six. Klobuchar and her husband, lawyer John Bessler, rented a 3-bedroom home owned by Todd in Arlington, Virginia, sources said.” [Page Six]

Firm Floats Less Parking for HQ2-Adjacent Park — “The green space adjacent to the first pair of Amazon.com Inc. HQ2 towers could be so much grander if it weren’t for some redundant on-street parking. That is what New York-based James Corner Field Operations, the urban design and landscape architecture firm Amazon has enlisted to mold Metropolitan Park’s open space, said Thursday night during the first step of the park master planning process… the site has roughly 50 on-street parking spaces, but there is a significant number, about 350, of underused below-ground spaces.” [Washington Business Journal]

Iwo Jima Restoration Is Complete — “This Sunday, Feb. 23, marks 75 years since brave Marines raised the American flag over Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima. The U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, which depicts the historic moment, has been completely rehabilitated… The rehabilitation of the sculpture and surrounding parkland, the specially designed onsite exhibits and the new videos were made possible through a generous $5.37 million donation.” [Press Release]

Board Approves Child Care Funding, Park Contract — “The Arlington County Board today approved a contract with Crown Construction Service, Inc. to upgrade heavily-used Edison Park with new playgrounds and other amenities… [and] accepted a $200,000 donation to fund high-quality child care for low-income Arlington families, the first such donation to the Arlington Community Foundation’s  (ACF) Shared Prosperity initiative from a private corporation.” [Arlington County, Arlington County]

‘Ball Cap Bandit’ Sentenced — “An Arlington man was sentenced today to five years in prison for robbing two Falls Church pawn shops of nearly $800,000 in jewelry and watches. According to court documents, in July 2014, Budder Khan, 30, entered Route 50 Gold and Jewelry Exchange, forced the store’s employees to the ground using what appeared to be a real firearm, smashed the business’s glass display cases, and took jewelry and watches worth over $650,000.” [Press Release]

Flickr pool photo by Phil

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Morning Notes

Simple Greek Now Open — Fast-casual restaurant chain The Simple Greek has opened its new Rosslyn location in the Colonial Plaza shopping center. A ribbon cutting ceremony yesterday was followed by long lines at lunchtime. [Twitter, Twitter]

WiFi Available in Underground Metro Stations — As of today, free wireless internet service should be available in every underground Metro station. Per yesterday’s announcement from Metro: “Customers can log-in by selecting the ‘Metro-Public’ network in their device’s Wi-Fi settings.” [WMATA]

Signs Up for Sfoglina — “Coming soon” signs are up for the new Rosslyn outpost of the acclaimed Fabio and Maria Trabocchi restaurant Sfoglina Pasta House. The restaurant is located on the street level of the office building at 11oo Wilson Boulevard. [Twitter]

Water Rescue Near Chain Bridge — D.C. police and firefighters rescued two people whose kayak overturned in the Potomac River near Chain Bridge last night. Both were evaluated by medics but “neither have physical injuries,” per DCFEMS. [Twitter, Twitter]

Fox News Coming to Iwo Jima Memorial — On Sunday, Fox News Channel will broadcast a portion of its America’s News Headquarters program (noon-2 p.m.) from the Marine Corps War Memorial near Rosslyn. Elizabeth Prann will co-anchor “ANHQ” from the Memorial, “where the nation will be preparing for the Fourth of July fireworks celebration,” according to a Fox press release.

Arlington Has Millions in Prepaid Taxes — “The Arlington treasurer’s office still has about $8 million sitting untouched in its coffers, waiting to be applied to future tax payments. But that’s less than half the $17.2 million in total prepayments submitted by Arlington taxpayers in the waning days of 2017, hoping to beat changes to federal tax law that made some mortgage-interest payments non-deductible in 2018.” [InsideNova]

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From The West Wing to The Pelican Brief, Arlington has been home to a number of film scenes over the years.

The county’s tourism promotion agency, StayArlington, listed several notable locations in a recent blog post, and ARLnow hit the pavement to find some of the more famous sites.

Few political junkies have forgotten the famous attempted assassination scene in The West Wing, which was filmed in Rosslyn’s Freedom Park.

Other memorable sites include scenes from Charlie Wilson’s War, which was filmed at Rosslyn’s The Weslie Condominiums, from The Next Karate Kid and Flags of Our Fathers, both of which shot scenes at the Marine Corps War Memorial, according to StayArlington.

The Ballston Common Mall — now Ballston Quarter — parking garage is said to have been the set for a scene in The Pelican Brief. The Russell Crowe thriller State of Play, meanwhile, included scenes at the Rosslyn Metro station and the Americana Hotel in Crystal City.

Any other famous scenes we missed on our tour? Let us know in the comments.

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(Updated at 1:45 p.m.) The Iwo Jima memorial is set to get a new visitor center as part of the National Defense Authorization Act that was just signed by President Trump.

The act of Congress, which sets military spending levels for FY 2018, includes language introduced by Rep. Don Beyer (D) to authorize building a new center.

It instructs the Secretary of the Interior to build a “structure for visitor services to include a public restroom facility.” It does not specify where the center will be built, but the text says it will be “in the area” of the memorial, the formal name of which is the Marine Corps War Memorial. A Beyer spokesman said this was the “final hurdle” to getting the visitor center built.

Beyer, whose district includes Arlington County, introduced a bill authorizing construction of the restrooms last year, funded by a gift from local philanthropist David Rubenstein.

Work began earlier this year to revamp the memorial, including washing and waxing the memorial and re-gilding its lettering; repairing any parts of the granite plaza that have become damaged; improving lighting; repaving roads and footpaths; and installing new signs, shrubs and trees.

Rubenstein pledged more than $5 million for the entire project and new visitor center.

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Crews started moving in this morning (Tuesday, August 15) to begin work to give the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial — also known as the Iwo Jima memorial — a facelift.

The work will limit public access to the memorial and surrounding parkland until next year. In signs posted near the memorial and the Netherlands Carillon, the National Park Service said the revamp includes washing and waxing the memorial and re-gilding its lettering, repairing any parts of the granite plaza that have become damaged, improving lighting, and installing new signs, shrubs and trees.

The roadway and footpath around the memorial will also be repaved.

“The road will be rebuilt in its current configuration, but with materials to better support the heavy weight of the many tour buses that use the road daily,” NPS said in a press release.

As of Tuesday morning, crews were putting up detour signs for road and trail users, as the access road to the memorial’s parking lot will be closed. In an announcement of the work, NPS said the memorial will be surrounded by scaffolding for much of the project, but pedestrians can still access the memorial plaza from N. Meade Street. Buses will have a small area for pick-up and drop-off on N. Meade Street also.

The $5.37 million project is funded by a donation from local philanthropist David Rubenstein, who has also used some of his multi-billion dollar fortune to fund the Washington Monument’s post-earthquake repairs, enrich the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ endowment and gave $12.35 million to the Arlington House Robert E. Lee museum in Arlington National Cemetery.

NPS said public access will be limited until February 2018. The memorial was dedicated in 1954 by President Dwight Eisenhower and receives 1.5 million visitors per year.

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American Flag at Iwo Jima

For years, visitors to our country’s most recognizable military monument have had but one nearby option should they need to use the restroom: a line of green porta-potties.

The porta-potties near the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington might be convenient, but they were also “unsightly and they smelled,” says Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.). Plus, they presented big challenges for disabled veterans visiting the memorial.

Porta-potties near the Iwo Jima memorial (photo via Google Maps)Luckily, the local philanthropist David Rubenstein stepped up last year with a pledge of $5.4 million to rehab the monument, the lighting and the landscaping around the 62-year-old monument, colloquially known as the Iwo Jima memorial. Rubenstein’s gift will now also fund permanent restrooms.

(Rubenstein has also funded post-earthquake repairs to the Washington Monument and to Arlington House, and pledged $50 million for the expansion of the Kennedy Center.)

A bill sponsored by Beyer passed last week, authorizing the construction of the restrooms. The bill had bipartisan support, although its passage came a year after Rubenstein’s donation was first announced and it was made necessary by a provision that stemmed from a debate over the location of the Air Force Memorial 14 years ago.

“It’s a small victory but it moves us in the right direction,” Beyer said.

Amid congressional gridlock on important issues like the budget, immigration and gun safety, Beyer said there is still plenty of work getting done in Congress — provided the work is politically uncontroversial.

“There are places where we really can’t get things done,” said Beyer. “But those are all places where there are significant philosophical differences between Democrats and Republicans. On things where there is consensus, we can actually move pretty quickly.”

But the fact that this pretty obvious improvement is getting done mostly because a billionaire ponied up for it may make a larger point about the current state of American governance and budget priorities.

“We’re fortunate to have the David Rubensteins of the world,” said Beyer, “but it is sad that we can’t free up more money for investments in public infrastructure.”

Beyer cited figures that suggest the U.S. is $3 trillion behind on needed infrastructure work due to deferred maintenance. The U.S. Park Service alone has $11 billion in infrastructure needs, including the funding still needed for repairs to Memorial Bridge.

For needs not deemed essential enough to receive taxpayer funding, private donations may be the only way to get it done in the near term.

“Until we get our arms around entitlement reform, finding ways to grow our discretionary resources for things like infrastructure, we’re going to be dependent on good folks like David Rubenstein,” Beyer said.

Though Beyer said he had not seen a timetable yet, he expects that the Iwo Jima improvements will take at least 12-18 months to complete.

“Arlington is a wonderful place to live — it gets all these awards for best suburb or best small city — and hopefully getting rid of the porta-potties at the Iwo Jima memorial will be another small step in improving the livability of Arlington.”

Photo (below) via Google Maps

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