• Secretary of the Army John McHugh accompanies Arlington National Cemetery chief engineer Col. Michelle Stewart as she bears the torch to re-light President John F. Kennedy's Eternal Flame, Oct. 29, 2013. Stewart was charged with the overhaul of the permanent Eternal Flame, which included the installation of a new burner assembly and supporting infrastructure. Gas, electric and compressed air lines were also upgraded.

    McHugh Relights JFK Eternal Flame

    Secretary of the Army John McHugh accompanies Arlington National Cemetery chief engineer Col. Michelle Stewart as she bears the torch to re-light President John F. Kennedy's Eternal Flame, Oct. 29, 2013. Stewart was charged with the overhaul of the...

  • Secretary of the Army John McHugh prepares to re-light the permanent President John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 29, 2013. Accompanying the secretary is Arlington National Cemetery Chief Engineer Col. Michelle Stewart, who was charged with the overhaul of the permanent Eternal Flame, which included the installation of a new burner assembly and supporting infrastructure. Gas, electrical and compressed air lines were also upgraded.

    Relighting the JFK Eternal Flame

    Secretary of the Army John McHugh prepares to re-light the permanent President John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 29, 2013. Accompanying the secretary is Arlington National Cemetery Chief Engineer Col. Michelle...

  • The President John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame was re-lighted Oct. 29, 2013, for just the second time in its 50-year history. During the spring, Arlington National Cemetery, Va., lit a temporary flame while Army Civil Engineer Corps personnel replaced the burner assembly and modernized the supporting infrastructure of the permanent Eternal Flame.

    JFK Eternal Flame Relit

    The President John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame was re-lighted Oct. 29, 2013, for just the second time in its 50-year history. During the spring, Arlington National Cemetery, Va., lit a temporary flame while Army Civil Engineer Corps personnel replaced the...

  • A joint service color guard awaits the relighting of the JFK Enternal Flame (by the feet of the Soldier on far left) at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 29, 2013, by Secretary of the Army John McHugh. A temporary Eternal Flame was in use while Army Corps of Engineers installed a new burner assembly and rebuilt the infrastructure, for the first time in 50 years. Gas, electrical and compressed air lines were also upgraded.

    Joint Color Guard

    A joint service color guard awaits the relighting of the JFK Enternal Flame (by the feet of the Soldier on far left) at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 29, 2013, by Secretary of the Army John McHugh. A temporary Eternal Flame was in use while...

  • Secretary of the Army John McHugh relights the JFK Eternal Flame at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 29, 2013. A temporary eternal flame had be lit April 29, 2013, so Army Corps of Engineer personnel could install a new burner assembly and rebuild the 50-year old infrastructure. Gas, electric and compressed air lines were also upgraded.

    McHugh Relights JFK Eternal Flame

    Secretary of the Army John McHugh relights the JFK Eternal Flame at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 29, 2013. A temporary eternal flame had be lit April 29, 2013, so Army Corps of Engineer personnel could install a new burner assembly and...

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 29, 2013) -- On a perfect fall morning at Arlington National Cemetery, Secretary of the Army John McHugh relit the eternal flame which marks the final resting places of John F. Kennedy, 35th president of the United States, and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

A flame has actually been burning continuously at the site since the president was buried there Nov. 25, 1963. It was originally lit by Mrs. Kennedy.

Recently, work began to upgrade the apparatus that keeps the flame illuminated. In order to make that happen, the flame was transferred to a nearby "temporary" eternal flame. Once the upgrade was complete, McHugh transferred the flame back.

The eternal flame has been burning now continuously for 50 years. The new hardware, more modern and efficient, will keep it burning so it may continue to be a beacon of hope and remembrance for all who see it, said Patrick K. Hallinan, executive director of Army National Military Cemeteries and Arlington National Cemetery.

"As a nation, we erect monuments and memorials to commemorate the people and events who define our values and ideals -- they are physical reminders of service, sacrifice and remembrance," Hallinan said.

"People from all over the world come to pay their respects to our 35th president, President John F. Kennedy, a combat veteran from World War II who served in the Navy," he said. "They come to visit a fellow military member, a president whose life was tragically cut short, and a man who inspired them.

"And, they come to see the eternal flame, the embodiment of hope and renewal, a symbol that is just as relevant today as it was then," Hallinan added.

A temporary eternal flame was lit April 29. It had been operating at the gravesite while a series of upgrades were made at the permanent eternal flame site. The Army Corps of Engineers, Norfolk District and its contracting partners conducted the work. They replaced the burner assembly and the supporting infrastructure including the gas, electric and compressed air lines for the flame.

"Essentially, it's same technology, pretty simple and elegant," said Col. Michelle Stewart, Arlington National Cemetery chief engineer. "The toughest part of the project was testing the flame. We wanted to ensure we recreated as much as possible the quality of the flame that burned previously for the last 50 years. So getting the gas and air mixture just right -- to add to the height of the flame, it's a good six inches of dancing flame, brightly colored -- we wanted to maintain that."

The engineers also installed new drainage lines below the flame and relocated the natural gas pressure regulators for easier access and maintenance.

Arlington will host a number of remembrance events in November to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's death and burial:

-- Nov. 15 -- Dec. 1, a special pictorial exhibit honoring Kennedy's legacy of public service will be on display in the basement of the Memorial Amphitheater.

-- Nov. 22, Arlington National Cemetery will conduct a wreath-laying remembrance at the JFK gravesite.

-- Nov. 25, the Irish Defence Forces 37th Cadet Class will conduct a remembrance ceremony at the Kennedy gravesite. The 37th Cadet Class flew to Washington to provide an honor guard during the president's funeral service.

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Page last updated Wed October 30th, 2013 at 06:30