acquired November 3, 2023

A Place of Rest

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The official National Veterans Day Observance takes place every year on November 11 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The day typically includes a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, speeches by the President or Vice President and other dignitaries, and a color parade in the Memorial Amphitheater.

On the other side of the Potomac River in Washington D.C., America’s oldest continually operating retirement home for military personnel hosts a more informal event with music, food, and fun. The Armed Forces Retirement Home-Washington, partly funded by a monthly charge of 50 cents to all active duty personnel, serves as a full-service retirement center for hundreds of veterans.

The OLI-2 (Operational Land Imager-2) on Landsat 9 captured this image of the facility and the nearby United States Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery on November 3, 2023. The 272-acre campus can accommodate up to 1,100 residents and has more than 100 buildings, including a post office, barber shop, bowling alley, elementary school, several residencies, a health center, and a hospital. Residents live amidst many acres of open space, including two fishing ponds, wooded walking trails, and a community garden.

Congress first established the site in 1851 using funds acquired during the Mexican-American War, initially calling it the United States Military Asylum¬†and then, starting in 1859, the United States Old Soldiers’ Home. In its early days, residents were expected to work and helped run a 300-acre dairy farm on the site. In the 20th century, the pastures were replaced by a nine-hole golf course still present at the site today.

Multiple U.S. presidents—James Buchanan, Chester Arthur, and Rutherford Hayes—spent time there. Most famously, President Abraham Lincoln and his family spent the summers of 1862-64 in a 34-room Gothic “cottage” at the Old Soldiers’ Home to escape the heat and poor air quality at the White House. It was there that he wrote the final draft of the Emancipation Proclamation. He was even evacuated from the area in July 1864 when he tried to observe the nearby battle of Fort Stevens, becoming the only U.S. president to come under hostile fire while in office.

NASA Earth Observatory image by Wanmei Liang, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Story by Adam Voiland.