It’s Memorial Day weekend in Arlington.
The flags are in at Arlington National Cemetery, ‘Rolling to Remember’ participants are rolling up to local hotels, and the 35% of locals who say they’re traveling for the weekend have been keeping National Airport busy.
ARLnow staff photographer Jay Westcott has been out and about over the past day or so, documenting some of the scenes around the county. Providing an assist is Army photographer Elizabeth Fraser, whose photos of the “Flags In” event were published online by Arlington National Cemetery.
This was the 75th annual Flags In at the cemetery. More, below, from the U.S. Dept. of Defense.
An honored tradition.
Soldiers assigned to the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” and other service members placed American flags at headstones at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., in advance of Memorial Day.
This was the 75th anniversary of “Flags In,” during which service members adorn gravesites at Arlington National Cemetery and the U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery to honor the nation’s fallen heroes.
Cookouts, a dip in the pool and the sound of a thousand motorcycles cruising down the highway. Yes, Memorial Day weekend in Arlington is almost here.
If you’re not among the approximately 35% of locals traveling for the holiday — at least according to our recent poll — you can expect the return of motorcycle-riding military veterans on Friday.
The annual Rolling Thunder rallies officially ended in 2019 but were quickly succeeded by Rolling to Remember, a nearly identical annual event focused on POW/MIA advocacy and organized by the group AMVETS. At the same time, the Rolling Thunder branding has lived on in parallel, with that group organizing a Thunder Alley vendor area near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C.
Rolling to Remember, like Rolling Thunder before it, refers participants to a number of Arlington hotels, meaning that those in Crystal City and Pentagon City, as well as Rosslyn, can expect more rumbles of motorcycle engines throughout the weekend. The event has typically used the Hyatt Regency in Crystal City as its home base.
As in the past, bikers will rally in a Pentagon parking lot Sunday morning. The rally typically results in some rolling road closures in the area, as participants ride from the Pentagon, across Key Bridge and into D.C. around noon for a demonstration “to bring awareness and accountability for POWs and MIAs left behind.”
When we asked last year, just 25% of poll respondents said they were heading out of town for Memorial Day.
That compares to 35% who said they were traveling for Memorial Day in 2013.
With the holiday weekend coming up, and with Covid even less of a factor this year, we wanted to see if the 2023 travel figures would be substantially different than 2022.
At the same time, we were interested to know just how long your Memorial Day trips would be — short jaunts that require no additional weekday time off other than the long weekend, or longer voyages.
A time-honored, pre-Memorial Day tradition took place at Arlington National Cemetery this morning.
More than 1,000 soldiers with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, also known as The Old Guard, as well as servicemembers from ceremonial units of the other armed forces branches, fanned out over the cemetery’s 640 acres to place 260,000 flags next to headstones and niche rows.
The annual “Flags-in” mission takes only four hours to honor every individual laid to rest at the ceremony, including our nation’s fallen military heroes.
ARLnow staff photographer Jay Westcott and other members of the media were able to get a glimpse of the marvel of solemnity and logistics today around dawn, as birds chirped on a cool, overcast morning.
Earlier today, soldiers from @USArmyOldGuard, along with service members from @USMC, @USNavy, @usairforce, and @USCG, placed U.S. flags at every gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery as part of #FlagsIn.#HonorThem
U.S. Army photos by Elizabeth Fraser pic.twitter.com/07hKqQfz5B
— Arlington National Cemetery (@ArlingtonNatl) May 26, 2022
This Memorial Day weekend also brings a new tradition: the public getting a rare opportunity to lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
“Due to the public’s overwhelming positive response to the Flower Laying Ceremony during the Tomb Centennial Commemoration in November, ANC is inviting the public to once again honor our service members by placing flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider,” the cemetery said earlier this week
The inaugural Flowers of Remembrance Day is taking place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.
More about the event from a cemetery press release, below.
Memorial Day Closures — County offices and facilities like libraries and community centers will be closed Monday for the Memorial Day holiday. Metered parking will not be enforced. But trash collection will continue as normal. [Arlington County, Twitter]
Tree Group Opposes ‘Missing Middle’ — “A tree-advocacy group believes proposed changes to Arlington housing policy could have a cataclysmic impact on existing tree canopy in the community. ‘Tell the county ‘no’ – do not enact policies that further reduce our tree canopy,’ the Arlington Tree Action Group (ATAG) said May 20 in response to a county-government proposal on possible zoning changes.” [Sun Gazette]
Chamber Supports New Ballston Metro Entrance — “I am writing to express our strong support for full Authority funding of Arlington County’s $80 million application for the Ballston-MU Metrorail Station West Entrance. This project is a critical improvement to the regional transit network and supports the Authority’s programming goals of modal and geographic balance… As we move forward, its construction will be very important to the success of businesses in Arlington.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
W-L’s Royal Rowing History — “In the spring of 1958, under the guidance of head coach Charlie Butt, a group of teenage rowers from Washington-Lee High School (now Washington-Liberty) performed so well at stateside races that they earned a spot at the Henley Royal Regatta in England–becoming the first public high school in America invited to the iconic race, which dates to 1839. But first, they needed money.” [Arlington Magazine]
County Now Offering Boosters for Kids — “After federal approvals, Arlington County and other providers are offering the COVID-19 vaccine booster to children aged 5 to 11.” [Patch]
County Polling About Pickleball — “As Arlington’s population continues to grow and sports trends change, the Department of Parks and Recreation recognizes there has been a shift in the use and demand for outdoor athletic courts. Our Outdoor Athletic Court Project includes creating criteria to identify existing courts that are candidates for permanent pickleball lines as well as identify an existing amenity to convert into a permanent pickleball facility.” [Arlington County]
Storms Possible Tomorrow — From the National Weather Service: “We’ll stay mostly dry and cloudy for the remainder of today with highs in the 60s across the area. We are monitoring the potential for an unsettled start to the long holiday weekend this Friday with severe storm/flood threats.” [Twitter]
It’s Thursday — Overcast throughout the day. High of 71 and low of 60. Sunrise at 5:49 am and sunset at 8:25 pm. [Weather.gov]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
The Memorial Day holiday weekend is almost here and with it comes the kickoff to the unofficial summer travel season.
AAA expects 39.2 million people will travel 50 miles or more this weekend, an increase of 8.3% over 2021. Most — nearly 35 million — will travel by car. Another 3 million will travel by air, a 25% increase from last year, the automobile association predicts.
Overall, that’s still down from the pre-pandemic 2019 figures of 42.8 million overall travelers, including 3.22 million air travelers.
When we asked ARLnow readers about their upcoming travel plans last month, 27% said they had no plans at the time to spend 2+ nights away from home this summer, while 60% said they were planning between one and three trips.
Of course, this Memorial Day weekend comes amid yet another Covid wave that, while less deadly than past waves, still means plenty of disruption to plans and apprehension about visiting vulnerable loved ones. Then there are those sky-high gas prices — a national average of $4.60 per gallon, per AAA.
With all that in mind, today we’re asking readers: are you planning to travel this weekend? And we’ll be comparing the results to a similar poll in 2013 when just shy of 35% said yes (at the time, the federal government sequester was blamed for dampening D.C. area residents’ enthusiasm for holiday travel).
‘Flags In’ at Arlington Nat’l Cemetery — “At 2:00pm EST, @USArmyOldGuard will enter @ArlingtonNatl and continue our tradition of placing an American flag at every gravesite throughout our Nation’s most hallowed grounds. Stay tuned for updates as we honor those that have served and sacrificed for our freedom.” [Twitter]
Former Sen. John Warner Dies — “John W. Warner, the five-term U.S. senator from Virginia who helped plan the nation’s 1976 bicentennial celebrations, played a central role in military affairs and gained respect on both sides of the political aisle for his diligence, consensus-building and independence, died May 24 at his home in Alexandria, Va. He was 94.” [Washington Post, Gov. Ralph Northam]
StarKist Moving Somewhere in N. Va. — “StarKist Co. plans to close its Pittsburgh headquarters office and relocate to Northern Virginia, the company said this week. Known for its cartoon mascot Charlie the Tuna, StarKist said in a statement that the headquarters in Pittsburgh will close at the end of March 2022… The company did not disclose where in Northern Virginia its new headquarters will be.” [Patch]
Memorial Day Closures — Updated at 8:55 a.m. — “Arlington County Government offices and services are operating on modified schedules for Memorial Day, May 31.” [Arlington County]
Special Election Voting Starts Today — “Arlington election officials have announced plans for two Saturday dates for in-person absentee voting in advance of the July 7 County Board special election. Saturday voting will be available on June 20 and July 4, augmenting the usual Monday-to-Friday early voting that will begin May 22.” [InsideNova]
Big Food Donation to Green Valley Church — “3,300 lasagna and vegetable meals donated by chef Jose Andres’ @WCKitchen were given to those in need at Our Lady, Queen of Peace Church in Arlington [on] May 21.” [@ZoeyMaraistACH/Twitter]
Flags In at Ceremony Despite Pandemic — “The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment has continued their tradition of placing American flags at every grave marker at Arlington National Cemetery for Memorial Day.” [NBC 4]
Arlingtonian Aims to Run Every Street — “Before the pandemic hit, I hadn’t taken a big vacation in years. Since I’m at a dramatically reduced salary from not working full-time and, like so many Arlingtonians, dealing with underlying stress and anxiety while still feeling incredibly thankful, I’ve decided to use this time to discover my own city by walking or running every street.” [Arlington Magazine]
Local Wages Were Rising at the End of 2019 — “The average weekly wage for those working in Arlington (wherever they may live) stood at $1,963 in the fourth quarter of 2019, according to data reported May 20 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s an increase of 4.7 percent from the same period a year before, well above the national growth rate of 3.5 percent (to $1,185).” [InsideNova]
Local Artist Creates Virus Sculptures — “The sculptures seem to be inspired by the latest breaking news headlines. A figure in a stark white face mask. A giant virus cell mutating into a tentacled sea creature that morphs back into a virus… The centerpiece was a spiky model of “a virus, with seven figures running away,” said [Hadrian] Mendoza, 46, a ceramic artist, sculptor and full-time art director at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington since 2017.” [Arlington Catholic Herald]
Rain and Storms Today — “Waves of showers or storms are a good bet as the slow-moving upper level low pressure system finally decides to wander by. Round one will end in the morning to midday, but skies remain mostly cloudy. If we do see enough sunshine and heating, it’s not impossible some severe storms will develop nearby.” [Capital Weather Gang]
Those looking to commemorate the First World War on Memorial Day may have been surprised to find the WWI plaque removed from the Clarendon War Memorial.
Dan Donahue from American Legion Post 139 in Arlington said the plaque was taken down to fix an error with one of the names.
The plaque has been the subject of controversy for its separation of two “colored” soldiers killed in WWI — listed as Arthur Morgan and Ralph Lowe — from the other 11 soldiers.
Donahue said the name “Ralph Lowe” should have been listed as “Ralph Rowe.”
No other alterations to the plaque are planned as part along with the name change, according to Donahue, but he is unsure when the alteration will be completed and the plaque reinstalled.
The memorial overlooking the intersection of Washington, Wilson and Clarendon boulevards was built in 1931 and has been moved around Arlington several times, but all with the original plaque intact.
The Arlington County Board accepted a $2,000 grant to fund new interpretive signs placed at the site last November. The staff report says the grant funding would be specifically dedicated to signage related to the creation of the memorial and its WWI component.
This weekend, volunteers are expected to adorn the graves of fallen soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery with thousands of flowers for Memorial Day.
The Memorial Day Flowers Foundation says it is donating 220,000 blooms for the annual event at the cemetery, and expects 1,200 volunteers will be on-site from around 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. to help place the flowers.
“Our primary goal for 2019 is to decorate all 300,000 headstones and niches at Arlington,” the foundation wrote on its website.
The foundation began decorating back in 2012, after part-Ecuadorean founder Ramiro Peñaherrera rustled up donations from Ecuador’s major rose growers for his and other family members buried at the cemetery.
Today, the flowers are donated from growers across the U.S., as well as Ecuador and Colombia, and the event is sponsored by several companies, including FedEx, Cisco, and TD Bank.
A spokeswoman for the foundation told ARLnow that family members interested in a flower for a loved one’s grave at the cemetery can request one by contacting the foundation at [email protected] and a volunteer will send a photo of the flower once it’s placed at the gravestone.
Yesterday, the Arlington National Cemetery also hosted its annual “Flags-In” tradition of placing American flags at the gravestones — despite the storm that felled trees and pelted rain and hail down in the area.
The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as the The Old Guard, returned later that day to reset the flags after the storm passed.
Soldier from @USArmyOldGuard takes a knee during a thunderstorm while participating in Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery. For 55+ years, soldiers from The Old Guard have honored our nation’s fallen by placing U.S. flags at gravesites. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser) pic.twitter.com/0NeAAXZF2g
— Arlington National Cemetery (@ArlingtonNatl) May 24, 2019
President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump attended the ceremony yesterday where 250,000 flags were placed at gravestones.
(Updated at 10:50 p.m.) The annual Rolling Thunder rally is coming to an end, but first a final big motorcycle gathering is planned this weekend.
Locals have a love-hate relationship with Rolling Thunder, which means increased traffic and noise along local roads and highways, plus road closures and other disruptions over Memorial Day weekend. In an ARLnow poll, however, most people said they either enjoy or do not mind the rally.
Rolling Thunder — which helps bring attention to American military Prisoners of War, Missing in Action and veterans issues — has for years used the Hyatt Regency hotel in Crystal City as its home base over the weekend. Bikers typically start to arrive on Friday before departing on Monday.
As in the past, this year’s schedule of events includes a candlelight vigil at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Friday and the main event — a rally in the Pentagon parking lot — on Sunday. During the day, the bikers hang out on the National Mall near the Lincoln Memorial.
A number of road closure are planned around the Pentagon for the Sunday rally. Per Arlington County Police:
The following closures will be implemented from 7:00 a.m. until approximately 4:00 p.m.:
- Washington Blvd. (Route 27) will be closed from I-395 to the Memorial Bridge.
- Route 110 southbound from Iwo Jima to I-395 will be opening and closing intermittently
- I-395 North Exit 8B will be CLOSED
In addition, Arlington National Cemetery will only be accessible from southbound George Washington Memorial Parkway or northbound Route 110.
ACPD says drivers should also expect numerous rolling road closures Saturday for a separate veterans motorcycle ride and memorial service.
The Arlington County Police Department will implement multiple road closures on Saturday, May 25, 2019, resulting in traffic disruptions, to accommodate escorts of Vietnam veterans groups.
- From approximately 7:50 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., I-66 Eastbound will be closed at N. Sycamore Street to allow police to escort 400 veterans of the Vietnam War to travel by motorcycle to Arlington National Cemetery. The escort will proceed east on I-66, south on Route 110, west on Washington Boulevard and exit onto Columbia Pike to Southgate Road. Significant travel delays can be expected along this route during this time period.
- From 11:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., traffic in the Crystal City area may experience delays as another veterans group is escorted through the area.
Motorists should expect large numbers of motorcyclists in Northern Virginia and the entire Washington Metropolitan area throughout the weekend.
The Rolling Thunder organization says its mission will continue despite the annual event coming to an end.
“The organization will continue to bring awareness to the public, in years to come, with regional demonstrations,” Rolling Thunder said in a press release.
Less than 7 days out! Got your scooter all squared away? pic.twitter.com/Z3RIWxjpIP
— Rolling Thunder DC (@RTWashDC) May 19, 2019