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Road Trip to History: Arlington National Cemetery

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The Chicago Sun-Times is chronicling the journey to Monday's inauguration with the Frazier Family of Marquette Park, and blogging about it. Catch our first story in the series here.

Arrived at Arlington National Cemetery. The bus lot is full this inauguration weekend. We're dropped off at a distance. The walking odyssey begins. It's a beautiful day! Balmy, 40 to 50 degrees, and it seeps into your spirit, even as you traverse miles and miles of tombstones. You're quiet here, even the rambunctious Frazier grandkids.

On the bus was Carolyn Sue Smith, 59, of Chatham, a retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel with 32 years of service. She served in Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne, 2008-2009, her last tour of duty. This visit to Arlington is important to her, as will be the visit to the Vietnam Memorial. "I'm looking forward to saluting my fellow veterans."
First stop for Pamela is the Women Veterans memorial. Asia, 16, and Semaja, 12, particularly enjoy it.

Next, we follow the masses filing toward the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. Lionel Jackson, who's worked as a public safety aide here for seven years, says President Obama and Vice President Biden's motorcade visited the tomb this morning. "They don't tell us when they're coming," he says.

No sign of them now. We catch the poignant wreath-laying ceremony at the tomb at noon. Uniforms. A rifle. Taps playing. Hands over hearts. Wreaths laid. Salutes. Then the ever-constant guard begins marching back and forth in front. Beautiful!

The Fraziers take lots of pictures. Grandkids ask lots of questions. "Who's buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers? How do you qualify to be buried here?" Michael Naylon of Reston, Virginia, a retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel who is at the cemetery visiting friends' graves, helps provide some of the answers. He too will be buried here, he shares.

"At church this morning, the pastor preached about the peaceful transition of power the inauguration represents, and I guess most of the people who are buried here subscribe to that," Naylon notes. "Everyone here died in allegiance to our Constitution, and in that vein, the inauguration of the president is a continuation of that."

The Sun-Times followed the Frazier family on its first Road Trip to History on Jan. 20, 2009. Revisit the series here: http://blogs.suntimes.com/roadtriptohistory/

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