ARLINGTON, Va. — Every year that I have lived and worked in this city I have always gone to Arlington National Cemetery to observe the Memorial Day ceremonies.
Afterward, I wander through the grounds, just to watch, maybe to listen, but mostly to contemplate on the sacrifices made by those brave souls whose final resting place has become hallowed ground — a literal garden of stones.
Arlington’s rolling hills are a place of extraordinary beauty, a fitting repository for the memory of the living history of the United States. Names from the history books leap off the pages as one strolls through the grounds: “Byrd, Taft, Lincoln, Kennedy, Rickover, Marshall, Pershing,” followed by the names of the thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and coast guardsman who gave their lives to secure the freedoms promised by the American Constitution.
In his remarks today, President Barack Obama reminded Americans they must honor the sacrifices of their military service members, particularly as U.S. combat roles change and the nation’s involvement in Afghanistan is winding down.
Adding that Arlington “has always been home to men and women who are willing to give their all … to preserve and protect the land that we love,” the President praised the selflessness that “beats in the hearts” of America’s military personnel.
Obama’s words stuck with me as I walked along through the ocean of gravestones, pausing occasionally to read the names, the inscriptions, and wonder what each person was like.
Scattered throughout the graves proudly marked with miniature American flags fluttering in the bright noontime sunlight, I observed families, loved ones, and friends who had come to honor their fallen.
Then I happened upon one grey haired older gentleman standing quietly in front of a headstone, obviously lost in his thoughts. As I tried to unobtrusively move around him, he look up at me and smiled.
I greeted him, and he greeted me back. He saw my press credentials hanging from my neck and asked whom I worked for.