Veteran’s Day is this Friday and after our recent trip to Washington DC, veterans, the military and war has been on my mind a lot. The military, past and present, give up so much for us. I hope as Veteran’s Day comes we will remember these people, remember their families, and remember their sacrifice.
We had the most amazing experience at Arlington Cemetery. We were taking the metro back to DC from Alexandria and it had begun to snow. We talked about skipping Arlington because it was so cold, but as we rolled into the Arlington stop we decided to endure the weather and got off.
The cold weather have been a huge deterrent for most people as all of the tour buses were leaving as we walked through the gates. We shared an umbrella, that we had borrowed from the concierge at our hotel, and slowly began walking up Roosevelt Drive. We didn’t have a destination in mind and just followed the signs to John F. Kennedy’s gravesite. We passed a few people who were heading for the exits as we climbed the hill towards his gravesite.
I have seen pictures of his gravesite, but was still surprised by how large it was. Well, actually, the gravesite wasn’t necessarily that large, but the surrounding area, with the amazing view of Arlington, was very impressive. A large granite semi-circle surrounds the gravesite and a granite wall has his Inaugural Address chiseled into the stone. The eternal flame continued to burn regardless of the snow. The solitude of the moment seemed fitting as we stood in front of his grave, with his wife buried next to him, and the world still. There was a reverence that fit the location that we probably wouldn’t have felt with the tourist crowds roaming the site. Even the kind guard, who recommended the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns as we were leaving, seemed to feel the same way. We were the only one’s there and our conversation was no more than a whisper.
Walking towards the Tomb of the Unknowns was a magical experience. Fall in DC is gorgeous. Add to that the manicured grounds, the repeating rows of headstones, the falling snow and the quiet that the snow brings and it becomes surreal. Is this real? It is hard to believe. It was so beautiful and I had to keep reminding myself where we were. But I think most people who have passed on would want you to have these feelings and to be comforted by the beauty. I remember taking the picture above and thinking that it would be an honor to have Arlington as your resting place.
The Memorial Amphitheater was completely unexpected. Walking up to it I was reminded of Rome. The wet marble glistened and made everything look silky smooth. It was so amazing.
Around the back was the Tomb of the Unknowns and the solitary soldier guarding it. There were a few people standing there watching, but it was so peaceful. People would walk to the bottom of the stairs to take a picture and then would quickly retreat to where they were as if the act of taking a picture would somehow interrupt the reverence of the location. A far cry from the total disregard you would find at most tourist locations. We watched the guard perform his drills in the snow and I felt a mixture of pride and sorrow all at the same time. How many people never made it home? How many are buried in unmarked graves the world over? But watching this single soldier performing his precise duties in the cold and snow epitomized our military. When the need calls, are military will be there. Cold or hot, day or night, they will fight for the rights of humanity. Yes, I was proud.
So this Veteran’s Day, let’s take a minute to remember and remind ourselves that we are free because so many gave their lives so it could be so.