When I was 13 my parents sent me on 2 week long dual trip to Washington DC and New York City with a group of students. We were ready and set to tear up the cities and take all they had to offer.
We spent the first couple days of the trip traipsing around DC looking at the monuments, taking a tour of the White House and visiting all of the hot tourist spots. The day arrived where our itinerary showed a 4 hour trip to Arlington National Cemetery. Taking a deep breath and mumbling to myself, I jumped on the bus. The trip from the hotel to the cemetery was filled with inane teenage chatter and a few of us singing “If You Want to Destroy My Sweater” by Weezer at the top of our lungs.
The bus pulled to a stop at the gate of Arlington National Cemetery. The tour guide stood at the front of the bus and gave us instructions about our behavior on the grounds. I listened with half an ear, what 13 year old has time to listen to an adult tell them how they need to behave. As if. I stepped off the bus and immediately goosebumps covered my arms and legs. The air was different here. It was solemn and thick. Immediately I remembered a story The Brother had told me about The Marines who stood guard over a tomb. This was the place.
Never the normal teenager, I felt the sadness, sorrow, loss and immense pride of the grounds. I heard the whispers of the family members as they cried for their fallen loved ones. I immediately separated myself from the rest of the group, vaguely hearing the cries of my friends as they frolicked on the grass. Suddenly I didn’t have time for Weezer or laughter.
I walked away from the group and found myself in the information house. I listed as an elderly man wearing a uniform told the tale of how Arlington came to be. With rapt attention, I listened to the cute old guy talk about the many areas of Arlington that should be explored. I grabbed a map and brochure and set off to the cemetery. As I exited the building my friends shouted in glee, in a fit of unnatural anger I turned my head and marched away from everyone. This was not a place for laughter.
My day started with a long walk amongst the rows of white grave markers. Soon, I found myself at the Tomb of the Unknown and came to an immediate halt as I saw the familiar sight of a Marine standing guard. A huge white sarcophagus stood at the bottom of the Memorial Amphiteater. Tears sprang to my eyes as I noticed the Marine standing guard. Very quietly another Marine entered my line of vision. He made a slow march to the other Marine where there was an inspection of weapons, salutes were made, the Marine took place of the former guard. I stood transfixed to my spot, unable to move. I felt a tickle on my chin and went to swipe the bug that was fluttering on my chin away… it wasn’t a bug, but tears that had filled my eyes and made their way down my cheek. A small puddle had begun to form on the ground between my feet. I had never seen something so moving in my life.
As an adolecent I knew that Arlington was a hollowed place, a place filled with the sorrow of a century gone by. As an adult, Arlington has a different meaning. I now live a life where Arlington is not a place to visit, but a place where our brothers and sisters lay for eternity. I understand the sacrifices that were made to give me freedom. The white grave markers are not just markers, they represent a life that was lived fighting for the freedom of our country. The white markers represent a life that was laid down to protect my freedom. A life that was lived in the same fashion that The Husband now lives, dedicating his existence to serve America and defending Her from the evils that try to destroy Her. Each grave marker represents a life that no longer breaths laughter, passion and love to others…
This Memorial Day I hope you take the time to stop and reflect on the lives that were laid down so that we may be free. We can celebrate in the fact that we are safe, that men and women stand guard over us so we can celebrate in our freedom.
Check out the military links here that are paying special tribute today. Memorial Day means so much than the beginning of summer or a grill-out to our military members and their families. It’s a day to remember those that have fallen. Those people were our brothers and sisters. Our military-family. We love you. We thank you. Please take a moment to say thanks to those that are serving. Thank our Almighty God for those that are strong enough to make the sacrifice.
I would give anything to be on the hallowed grounds of Arlington today. Sometimes a girl needs a reminder of the greatness of this country.