Prince Harry of Wales arrived here in the US yesterday for a week long visit to the United States of America on official British Royal Family business and one of the first things he did upon his arrival was pay a visit to Arlington National Cemetery. As a military man himself, Harry understands what service in the armed forces means and he wanted to pay his respects to the US military service personnel who paid the ultimate price. After Harry toured the gravestones at Arlington, he participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. As you can see in the photos below, it was a powerful ceremony of respect.
Prince Harry has said he wants to be a champion of ‘wounded warriors’ – servicemen and women who have been injured in combat – and today he had his first assignment in the U.S. – as he toured one of the country’s largest military medical centers. Harry’s visit to the the Walter Reed National Military Center in Maryland came on the second day of his week-long U.S. tour, which kicked off with visits to Capitol Hill and the White House yesterday, before he paid his respects to fallen soldiers at Arlington Cemetery in Virginia this morning. Dressed in his Army Air Corps fatigues and desert boots, the 28-year-old Prince, known as Captain Wales in the military, listened intently as he was given a briefing on advances in prosthetics after meeting the center’s commander, Rear Admiral Alton Stocks … This weekend he will attend the 2013 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, which involves more than 200 injured servicemen and women – including a team from the UK –competing in a variety of events at the US Olympic Training Centre including archery, volleyball and cycling. He is also taking part with a team of amputees undertaking a perilous trek to the South Pole in November as part of the Walking With The Wounded South Pole Allied Challenge 2013 … The visit to the hospital came after Harry paid his respects to the country’s fallen soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery – a somber visit that was in stark contrast to the hysteria on his arrival in the U.S. on Thursday. The prince, himself a soldier, visited the site in Virginia, an extraordinary peaceful and beautiful spot overlooking Washington, sheltered by oaks and dogwoods, on Friday morning. Wearing the No. 1 Ceremonial Dress of the Blues and Royals, to which he is still formally attached, as well as his light blue Army Air Corps beret, Harry, 28, who recently served himself in Afghanistan as an Apache attack helicopter pilot, appeared genuinely moved by the experience. His first stop was at Section 60, the resting place of those who have lost their lives in recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he placed a wreath on a grave. The headstone of US Army Specialist Michael L Stansbery Jr, who died in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan on July 30, 2010, aged 21, was chosen at random from the thousands of graves. It bore a handwritten note reading: ‘In grateful memory of all those who have given their lives in the cause of freedom. Captain Harry Wales’. After placing the wreath the Prince stood to attention and saluted the grave, before walking alone through the rows of headstones surrounding it, pausing several times to read individual inscriptions. As a serving officer who has recently returned from Afghanistan himself, Harry – who is known as Captain Wales in the Army Air Corps – was keen to personally pay his respects … After laying the wreath, Harry moved onto the graveside of iconic former US President John F Kennedy, who was assassinated on November 22, 1963 as he drove in a motorcade through Dallas. As he visited JFK’s grave the prince knelt on one knee and placed a mixed bouquet of flowers on the tombstone, which lies next to an eternal flame, then stood to attention, bowed his head and paused for a moment in quiet reflection. Visiting dignitaries do not usually visit Kennedy’s grave, but the Prince made the gesture because November marks the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination. Harry spent around five minutes in all at the grave, talking to Patrick Hallinan, superintendent of the cemetery … He completed the visit by laying a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The tomb contains the body of an unidentified First World War soldier, and has been guarded continuously since 1937.
Designed to honor those who have died for their nation, Arlington is the final resting place for more than 400,000 active duty servicemen and women, veterans and their families. It also hosts more than 3,000 ceremonies each year and is a rite of passage for visiting dignitaries.
Having visited Arlington National Cemetery myself, I can assure you that the experience of being there is moving and powerful. Unlike some other dignitaries, Harry‘s visit seems extra poignant because he is an active member of the British armed forces. The respect he showed at the cemetery today is genuine, most assuredly. I know Prince Harry has a very busy schedule here in the US this week so it seems quite significant that one of the first things on his agenda was a visit to Arlington.