Old Amphitheater renaming connects Arlington National Cemetery to past
June 2, 2014
ARLINGTON, Va. (June 1, 2014) -- The Grand Army of the Republic veteran's group and other patriotic societies joined with the U.S. Army Friday, to rename the Old Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery here, in honor of a corporal from the Civil War.
Cpl. James R. Tanner was a member of the 87th New York Volunteer Infantry, who lost both his legs while fighting in the second Battle of Bull Run, in 1862. Moving forward, Tanner later became an advocate for veteran's rights, and a commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. He is laid to rest near the structure now bearing his name.
It so happened that May also marked the 150th year that the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War have conducted Memorial Day ceremonies at this location. As such, members of the organization expressed the event was a testimony to all veterans, past and present.
"It was a great honor for all of us, all of us in the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, to continue the practice of our forefathers in honoring the Civil War dead," said Richard Griffin, the camp commander. "Today we also honor all who have died in the service of their country in the armed forces."
The Old Amphitheater was built in 1873, and thousands of Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen from each war have since been laid to rest in the lands surrounding the pillared structure. Since the amphitheater was built, it has been used as a gathering place to commemorate Decoration Day, which is now known as Memorial Day. It is a place where people can make a connection with history, and visit American heroes.
"That is what we are doing here today -- making and preserving connections," said Jeffry Burden, a speaker at the renaming ceremony. "We are drawn here because we believe our connections with the men and women who died in the service of their country are important.
"As citizens, we are linked to them, and they to us," he continued. "We know that to our core, but we have few ways in our day-to-day lives to fully express it. Today, mixing pride and grief, we have the chance to nurture and enlarge those connections."
(Editor's note: This event was part of the month-long susquecentennial observance at Arlington National Cemetery which culminates June 16.)