WASHINGTON (USA Today) — No squeals on Friday, just solemnity and salutes for Prince Harry at Arlington National Cemetery, then comradery with veterans at the military’s Walter Reed medical center.
After a whirlwind first day in the nation’s capital that included a visit to Capitol Hill, the White House and the British Ambassador’s residence, Harry was up bright and early and in uniform for a somber visit to Arlington, then later changed into camouflage for a buck-em-up visit to wounded warriors.
By around 8:30 a.m., a large crowd of schoolchildren and royal watchers was waiting for him, on a beautiful and tranquil morning at the nation’s best known national military cemetery, in the Virginia suburb across the Potomac from Washington.
The young royal, 28, a captain in the British Army who just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan as a helicopter pilot, went first to Section 60 of the cemetery where soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried. He placed a wreath at one of the graves with a message:
“To my comrades-in-arms of the United States of America, who have paid the ultimate price in the cause of freedom. Captain Harry Wales”
He placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns during a solemn ceremony there. It contained a message: “In grateful memory of all those who have given their lives in the cause of freedom. Captain Harry Wales.”
Just before, the band played the U.K. national anthem (God Save the Queen) and the U.S. national anthem. Harry saluted for both, and for taps.
The ceremony was full of decorum and respect. Harry stood rigid and at attention, looking very professional, very military. The schoolchildren in attendance behaved beautifully. The wreath is made up of poppies, the symbol of World War I that the British, Europeans and celebs on the red carpet wear every Nov. 11.
Dressed in his blue dress uniform with the sky-blue cap, Harry walked among the graves of Section 60, grasping his hands behind him in the classic Windsor male stance.
Again, Harry impressed, especially his fans, but it was a more respectful response compared to the rock-star-style squeals from crowds yesterday. Polly Gregory, 19, a George Washington University freshman, said it was nice to see him looking and acting so serious, as the occasion demanded.
“I didn’t expect him to be that tall or that muscular — he was really nice-looking,” she gushed. “And his hair is not as red as I thought it would be….It was awesome.”
Next, Harry headed to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in suburban Bethesda, Md., after first changing to the sort of uniform he wore during his recent tour of duty in Afghanistan. He spent time with wounded veterans undergoing physical therapy at the premier military rehab center. Harry has made support for wounded warriors one of his special causes.
When he wraps up his tour of D.C., the prince will head to Colorado Springs next where he’ll cheer on vets at the Warrior Games. From there, he’ll be in New Jersey and New York on Monday and Tuesday to tour Hurricane Sandy damage, promote British tourism and attend a charity fundraiser.
This trip across the USA won’t be all work though. The final leg of his trip will allow Harry to relax a bit as he plays in a polo match in Greenwich, Conn., a game that will also serve as a fundraiser for his African charity.