The burial site of the 35th U.S. President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, holds a special meaning for the nation. John F. Kennedy, a World War II Navy lieutenant and war hero, was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, at the height of his political career.
During his term of office, President Kennedy visited Arlington National Cemetery many times - the last time on Veteran's Day, November 11, 1963, just 11 days before his assassination. Earlier, on a spontaneous visit to Arlington House, he had commented on the beautiful vista of Washington, D.C., saying that "I could stay here forever."
On Saturday, November 23rd, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara contacted John Metzler, the Superintendant of Arlington National Cemetery, and asked to be shown possible burial sites. Three sites were shown:
The final decision was made by the widow, Jacqueline Kennedy, after she was shown the location by McNamara and Metzler. The gravesite overlooks the nation's capital , its glittering monuments, and across the Potomac River, the view that the late president had admired earlier.
On the afternoon of November 25, 1963, a processional several miles long followed the cortege to Arlington National Cemetery . At the graveside, there was the thunder of jets overhead, a 21-gun salute, taps, and finally the strains of the Navy hymn, "Eternal Father, Strong to Save." Cardinal Cushing said the final prayers over the first Roman Catholic ever to have held the nation's highest office.
The flag that had shielded the coffin was folded with care and Jacqueline Kennedy, the President's widow, lit the eternal flame which would forever burn brightly in honor of his legacy. At 3:34 P.M., the President's coffin was lowered into the earth. That day, along with President Kennedy, there were 23 other funerals which were conducted in the cemetery.
The President's two deceased children, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy and an unnamed Infant Daughter, were reinterred by his side on the evening of December 4, 1963, without ceremony. Four years later, on March 1967, the caskets of the president and his two deceased children were raised from their temporary sites, carried about 20 feet downhill, and reburied in the granite memorial at the new gravesite.
Along the ellipse are inscribed quotations from President Kennedy's Inaugural Speech of 1961. President Kennedy's grave lies on a slightly elevated terrace, marked by a marble tablet which simply proclaims:
The legacy of President Kennedy's ideals lives on as the eternal flame continues to light his final resting place. Nearby, a grave of his brother, Robert Kennedy, also a Navy veteran and victim of a political assasin, can be found.
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