There were too many black limos and hearses. There were too many parents, young wives, and kids dressed in their best clothes at Arlington that day. It was too busy. …… But then I remembered we are a nation at war, two wars to be exact.
Every so often I take a trip to be with a friend at the corner of Bradley and Eisenhower Avenues. He’s always surrounded by friends and colleagues in a beautiful and peaceful neighborhood. Unfortunately, his home is at Arlington National Cemetery. If you’ve never visited Arlington, do so; it will alter your outlook on life, rearrange your priorities, and bring you back to earth in a way like no other place will.
Unfortunately, I have several friends there. I know that when I visit I will be overwhelmed with a strange mix of joy, for having known them; sadness for having seen them pass, and pride for knowing they rest on our country’s most sacred ground. I mentally prepare myself every time I arrive for a visit. It truly is a different world inside the hedges that border its entrance.
The latest visit was not the same however. The emotions were similar but the environment was different. Arlington was quietly busy; too busy. As I spent time with my friends I looked around the neighborhood and watched the activity. Typically, one might get a distant glimpse of an honor detail preparing for a burial. That day there were Army, Navy, and Marine Corp honor details posted in every direction with caissons marking the procession of another high ranking hero. I listened several times to a distant bugler playing Taps and bowed my head at repeated 21 gun salutes.
There were too many black limos and hearses. There were too many parents, young wives, and kids dressed in their best clothes at Arlington that day. It was too busy.
But then I remembered we are a nation at war, two wars to be exact. The fallen warriors that volunteered to conduct that work on our behalf knew very well that their work was unforgiving and yet they still put themselves in the position of joining my friends at Arlington. They didn’t debate the geo-political aspects of their job or conduct polls to determine the popularity of their goals. They just went to work and defended what the folks on the other side of the Potomac River often seem to take for granted.
We have a whole generation in America that cannot comprehend nor tries to understand the mentality of thankless service and ultimate sacrifice. Sadly, there are way too many in my own generation that cannot grasp it either. They refuse to acknowledge or simply pay lip service to the connection between the freedoms they enjoy and the persistent work done by our armed forces to protect and defend the Constitution that grants them those liberties.
Until more Americans reconnect with the hard lessons which teach that American freedoms are fragile and that there are external and internal forces that would like nothing more than to see them taken away, we will not truly appreciate those that now rest inside Arlington’s hedges.
There is no politics at the corner of Bradley and Eisenhower but there is a stark reminder of American life; recognized worldwide by its freedom amidst the crosses belonging to those who gave theirs.