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This Memorial Day, take a walk to honor those who died serving their country

Is it weird to take a walk in a cemetery? It needn't be. This is a gentle stroll inside the Los Angeles National Cemetery that takes you along shaded lanes separating broad green lawns, teaches some interesting American military history and offers a chance to honor the men and women who died in service to their country.

1. Begin this walk just inside the gates of the Los Angeles National Cemetery. After checking out the charming Bob Hope Memorial Chapel and administration building with an automated grave locator, begin walking straight along Constitution Avenue. Walk along a line of magnolia trees past a lawn facing a podium, inscribed with Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. (The earliest graves here contain remains of Civil War dead.) You are in the middle of 114 acres of cemetery.

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2. Turn left at the next intersection, onto Gettysburg Avenue, and walk toward a pair of brick arcades. The one on the right houses memorial plaques. The one on the left is a columbarium -- a place where funeral urns are stored -- that also houses displays of vintage military uniforms. You'll find public restrooms and a drinking fountain here.

3. Continue along Gettysburg as it slopes uphill past Shiloh Avenue to Belleau Wood Drive. You may have already noticed the streets are named after important battles. Some of the oldest graves are in this area, including 100 Buffalo Soldiers who served in the Union Army during the Civil War.

4. Turn left and downhill onto Belleau Wood, left again onto San Juan Hill Avenue, then immediately right onto Buena Vista Avenue. Walk to the crest of the hill, past a display of Civil War cannons, to a huge granite obelisk honoring "the men who offered their lives in defense of their country." From here you have good views of Westwood to one side and the Getty Museum to another.

5. Descend San Juan Hill, walking straight to Constitution Avenue. The chapel should be on your right, and the parking lot just beyond.

6. To extend this walk, explore the newer parts of the cemetery south of Constitution.

The stats

Distance: 2 miles

Difficulty: 1.5, on a scale of 1 to 5

Duration: 1 hour

Details: Free parking. No pets. Wheelchair accessible. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Open Memorial Day from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Fleming is the author of "Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles" and "Secret Walks: A Walking Guide to the Hidden Trails of Los Angeles." 

charles.fleming@latimes.com

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