Visiting the Stunning Houston National Cemetery and Hemicycle

Updated on May 7, 2018
Peggy W profile image

I live in Houston, and I have worked as a nurse. My interests include traveling, reading, gardening, cooking, and our wonderful pets.

Hemicycle monument at Houston National Cemetery
Hemicycle monument at Houston National Cemetery | Source

The grounds are spectacularly beautiful in the Houston National Cemetery. What makes it even more special is the presence of a white hemicycle. In the center of the hemicycle is a lawn where ceremonies are occasionally held.

Soon after entering this 419.2-acre cemetery, one arrives at the buildings pictured below (which serve as administrative offices). When funerals are held, people driving the hearse and all the vehicles bringing family members and friends are told to stop and gather in this area. After everyone has arrived for the ceremony they are escorted from this location to one of several committal shelters scattered throughout the grounds.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Main Entrance to Houston National CemeteryAdministrative offices at Houston National CemeteryArmy, Navy, Marines, Air Force & Coast Guard Medallions at Houston National CemeteryPortion of Administrative offices at Houston National Cemetery
Main Entrance to Houston National Cemetery
Main Entrance to Houston National Cemetery | Source
Administrative offices at Houston National Cemetery
Administrative offices at Houston National Cemetery | Source
Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force & Coast Guard Medallions at Houston National Cemetery
Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force & Coast Guard Medallions at Houston National Cemetery | Source
Portion of Administrative offices at Houston National Cemetery
Portion of Administrative offices at Houston National Cemetery | Source

Hemicycle

A hemicycle is a large semi-circular monument.

  • This is only one of three hemicycles in our national cemeteries.
  • Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia features another hemicycle memorial that honors women who have served their country in military service.
  • The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Philippines is the other one.

Approaching this structure with the tree-lined streets is a pretty sight to behold. My husband and I spent some time walking around this hemicycle. Stairs lead up to the top level where a person can appreciate open-air ceremonies conducted on the lawn in the center from a heightened perspective. Looking out at the national cemetery from that raised viewpoint is also nice.

There are 330 bells in the carillon tower. Each bell was given in memory or in honor of someone or by an interested individual or organization. They are all listed on a plaque attached to the hemicycle near the tower. It must be beautiful to hear them resonating throughout the cemetery when being rung.

Also written on a plaque is the following: "AMVETS (from WWII, Korea and Vietnam) dedicated this carillon as a living Memorial to America's Veterans who served their country honorably for the cause of freedom. Houston National Cemetery March 20, 1994."

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Inside partial view of Hemicycle monument at Houston National Cemetery from bottom levelInside partial view of Hemicycle monument at Houston National Cemetery from 2nd level on top75 foot tower with carillon at Houston National Cemetery
Inside partial view of Hemicycle monument at Houston National Cemetery from bottom level
Inside partial view of Hemicycle monument at Houston National Cemetery from bottom level | Source
Inside partial view of Hemicycle monument at Houston National Cemetery from 2nd level on top
Inside partial view of Hemicycle monument at Houston National Cemetery from 2nd level on top | Source
75 foot tower with carillon at Houston National Cemetery
75 foot tower with carillon at Houston National Cemetery | Source

Congressman Albert Thomas' Grave Site

The shrubs pictured below surround a very special grave site. Singled out for special recognition is the Honorable Albert Thomas who served as a U.S. Congressman from Texas for almost 30 years. Prior to that, he was a Lieutenant in the Army during WWI. According to a sign posted on the front of the grave, Albert Thomas was also instrumental in getting Congress to approve the establishment of this cemetery.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Special Albert Thomas grave site in front of Hemicycle monument at Houston National CemeteryCongressman Albert Thomas buried at Houston National Cemetery.Plaque affixed to the Hemicycle honoring Congressman Albert Thomas.
Special Albert Thomas grave site in front of Hemicycle monument at Houston National Cemetery
Special Albert Thomas grave site in front of Hemicycle monument at Houston National Cemetery | Source
Congressman Albert Thomas buried at Houston National Cemetery.
Congressman Albert Thomas buried at Houston National Cemetery. | Source
Plaque affixed to the Hemicycle honoring Congressman Albert Thomas.
Plaque affixed to the Hemicycle honoring Congressman Albert Thomas. | Source

Special Recognition Grave Sites

At the date of this writing, there are only four other grave sites given special places of honor right outside of the hemicycle in the mall area. They are all medal of honor recipients. First Lieutenant Raymond L. Knight, Staff Sergeant Marcario Garcia, and Captain James H. Fields all served during WWII. First Sergeant David H. McNerney saw service in Vietnam. Signs posted near each medal of honor recipient tell a bit about each man.

Receiving a medal of honor means that the person has gone above and beyond what is normally required of them by way of valor when in service to our country. Generally, they are presented the medal of honor by the President of the United States in a special ceremony. Medal of honor recipients and even some of their family members are given special perks.

Medal of Honor recipients buried at Houston National Cemetery
Medal of Honor recipients buried at Houston National Cemetery | Source

Houston National Cemetery Chapel

See views of the chapel below. It is such a special site for memorial services. The inside of the chapel is beautiful as these photos portray. The stained glass windows are particularly pretty.

We were recently invited to attend a memorial service of a dear person who is now joining her husband who is already interred in this gorgeous cemetery. My mother and I had known both of these delightful people when we were all volunteers at an assistance ministry in Houston many years ago. We also know several other veterans who are buried here.

Instead of gathering at the administrative offices, we met at the chapel for the memorial ceremony after which the family members went to the grave site. The chapel, as well as the tower with the carillon, are built into the hemicycle and anchor the back end of it.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Exterior partial view of Hemicycle with chapel building jutting out on the right.Bas relief sculpture above chapel entrance door at Houston National CemeteryBeautiful stained glass windows inside the chapel at Houston National Cemetery Interior of Chapel at Houston National Cemetery
Exterior partial view of Hemicycle with chapel building jutting out on the right.
Exterior partial view of Hemicycle with chapel building jutting out on the right. | Source
Bas relief sculpture above chapel entrance door at Houston National Cemetery
Bas relief sculpture above chapel entrance door at Houston National Cemetery | Source
Beautiful stained glass windows inside the chapel at Houston National Cemetery
Beautiful stained glass windows inside the chapel at Houston National Cemetery | Source
Interior of Chapel at Houston National Cemetery
Interior of Chapel at Houston National Cemetery | Source

Committal Shelters

Pictured below is one of several committal shelters placed in various areas of this national cemetery. Ceremonies are held there prior to the placement of the casket into its permanent location in the ground.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Committal shelter in Houston National Cemetery Committal shelter in Houston National Cemetery
Committal shelter in Houston National Cemetery
Committal shelter in Houston National Cemetery | Source
Committal shelter in Houston National Cemetery
Committal shelter in Houston National Cemetery | Source

Landscaping and Gravestones

What makes the grounds of this cemetery exceptionally pretty are all of the ponds and wetland areas. Native grasses, wildflowers and wild creatures truly make this a living landscape. Seasonal changes add to the beauty viewed here.

The history of government furnished gravestones is interesting and varied. Upright markers of various types were the norm for a long time with flat ones originating in 1936. Upright ones were again instituted in 1994. Every change through the years has been authorized including what gets engraved upon the headstones. You can read more about the history of government furnished headstones and markers here.

Personally, I think that the upright ones are prettier. They remind me of many soldiers standing at attention.

There are currently 94,903 people buried or interred in this cemetery. Only about half of the land is currently in use. Many more veterans and/or their family members will have their final resting spot in this pretty space. The Houston National Cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2017.

The location of this spectacularly gorgeous cemetery is just 15 miles northwest of downtown Houston.

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One of many final resting places for cremated individuals at Houston National CemeteryGrave Markers at Houston National CemeteryGrave Markers at Houston National CemeteryGrave Markers at Houston National CemeteryGrave Markers at Houston National CemeteryHouston National Cemetery
One of many final resting places for cremated individuals at Houston National Cemetery
One of many final resting places for cremated individuals at Houston National Cemetery | Source
Grave Markers at Houston National Cemetery
Grave Markers at Houston National Cemetery | Source
Grave Markers at Houston National Cemetery
Grave Markers at Houston National Cemetery | Source
Grave Markers at Houston National Cemetery
Grave Markers at Houston National Cemetery | Source
Grave Markers at Houston National Cemetery
Grave Markers at Houston National Cemetery | Source
Houston National Cemetery
Houston National Cemetery | Source

Have You Ever Visited the Houston National Cemetery?

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A markerHouston National Cemetery -
10410 Veterans Memorial Dr, Houston, TX 77038, USA
get directions

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Peggy Woods

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      • Peggy W profile image
        Author

        Peggy Woods 5 days ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Patricia,

        Houston does indeed have a beautiful national cemetery. I am glad to be able to showcase such sites with you and others who may read this article.

      • pstraubie48 profile image

        Patricia Scott 5 days ago from sunny Florida

        Quite a majestic scene and one where I believe I would feel a sense of peace and calm as I considered all who are buried there.

        You have a talent for sharing so many interesting places Peggy. I can hardly wait to return to Texas because Houston is on my list of places to visit. Angels once again bringing you love and blessings and hugs. ps

      • Peggy W profile image
        Author

        Peggy Woods 2 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Dianna,

        I also think that those committal shelters are nice whether it is a hot sunny day or a rainy one. This national cemetery is surely serene and beautiful. Thanks for your visit.

      • teaches12345 profile image

        Dianna Mendez 2 weeks ago

        The monument is very impressive. The committal shelter is a wonderful idea. I think it would make the ceremony even more beautiful (not to mention better for those rainy days). Thanks for sharing the serenity of this place.

      • Peggy W profile image
        Author

        Peggy Woods 3 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hello Readmikenow,

        Hope you do get to visit the Houston National Cemetery someday. If you are in our area there are numerous other things of interest that you might also enjoy.

      • Readmikenow profile image

        Readmikenow 3 weeks ago

        This is a good article. The pictures are also great. Enjoyed reading this. I hope to visit it some day. You made it seem very interesting.

      • Peggy W profile image
        Author

        Peggy Woods 3 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi FlourishAnyway,

        It takes a lot of manpower hours to keep our large national cemeteries well manicured. I think that is one of the reasons those flat headstones came into being unlike the upright ones. It is undoubtedly much easier to keep the grass mowed around them.

      • Peggy W profile image
        Author

        Peggy Woods 3 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Robert,

        There is plenty of room still left for our deceased soldiers at our Houston National Cemetery unlike Arlington. Ours is a much newer cemetery in comparison.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 3 weeks ago from USA

        This is a beautiful cemetery. I’ve always wondered what it takes to mow around so many graves so they stay wel manicured.

      • Peggy W profile image
        Author

        Peggy Woods 3 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Genna,

        You described this cemetery so perfectly: "Stunning beauty, grace and solemnity." Glad you liked seeing this beauty.

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 4 weeks ago

        Arlington National Cemetery is running out of space so it is good that isn't a problem in the Houston National Cemetery.

      • Peggy W profile image
        Author

        Peggy Woods 4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Robert,

        It is indeed a beautiful final resting spot.

      • Peggy W profile image
        Author

        Peggy Woods 4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Linda,

        They have much room still left for more interments at this national cemetery in Houston. With the ponds and different areas it will always be beautiful even when filled to capacity.

      • Peggy W profile image
        Author

        Peggy Woods 4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Rachel,

        Happy to be able to show you this beautiful resting place in Houston. The Hemicycle also makes it special in addition to the beautiful land around it.

      • Genna East profile image

        Genna East 4 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

        Hi Peggy. Stunning beauty, grace and solemnity. What an amazing place. One doesn't often find cemeteries that are so inviting -- for both the full-time resident and the visitor. I imagine that one would find this final resting place a heaven of its own. Thank you for sharing this, Peg.

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 4 weeks ago

        This seems a beautiful place for a final resting place.

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 4 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

        A cemetery containing more than 94,000 people is amazing. The area looks so beautiful and peaceful. Your photos give a great view of the place, Peggy. I will never be able to visit the cemetery in person, but I feel like I've just been there after reading your article and looking at the photos.

      • Rachel L Alba profile image

        Rachel L Alba 4 weeks ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

        If you didn't say it was a cemetery, I wouldn't have recognized it as a cemetery. It's very beautiful. I never even heard of it. Thank you for sharing these beautiful pictures and all of the information.

        Blessings to you.

      • Peggy W profile image
        Author

        Peggy Woods 4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Bill,

        I also enjoy visiting cemeteries and have done so even while on different vacations. Some of those old tombstones are beautiful pieces of art. What is written on tombstones is also interesting and informative.

      • Peggy W profile image
        Author

        Peggy Woods 4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hello Hari Prasad S,

        So glad you found this to be informative. Thanks for your complementary comment.

      • Peggy W profile image
        Author

        Peggy Woods 4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Mary,

        I agree with you in that those who serve our country deserve a nice final resting place. This national cemetery in Houston is beautiful and nicely serves that purpose.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

        I'm a big cemetery person. Love to walk around old cemeteries and read the tombstones....so yes, I would visit this place with camera in hand.

      • shprd74 profile image

        Hari Prasad S 4 weeks ago from Bangalore

        Great comprehensive writing peggy. It can be a reference for anyone who wants to write in detail about beautiful places.

      • aesta1 profile image

        Mary Norton 4 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

        What a beautiful cemetery. Iis nice to have something special like this for those who fought for the country.

      • Peggy W profile image
        Author

        Peggy Woods 4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Frank,

        I completely understand just because of the sheer beauty of the place.

      • Frank Atanacio profile image

        Frank Atanacio 4 weeks ago from Shelton

        I hate to admit it, but I would love to be buried there when my times comes.. it is amazing peaceful and well kept.. awesome photos Peg.. awesome hub

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