For Memorial Day, I decided to weave together an old journal entry of mine that I recently rediscovered and my walk tonight.
Monday May 29, 2000 – Arlington, VA
“Well, I’ve been in Washington for just over a week now. I thought I’d be betraying the feelings I had previously if I didn’t make the most of Memorial Day. So, here I am at Arlington National Cemetery. I couldn’t come up with a more perfect place.
I’m sitting at a bench at Memorial Amphitheater (aside: a man in a Navy uniform just walked by with his 3 young children. They follow him so closely, imitating soldiers and looking up at him with an inexplicable admiration pouring from their faces. It really embodies my emotions for my father).
I’m waiting to see the changing of the Guard again. But, with the crowd already assembled for the 3:30 ceremony, I’m probably going to be early for the 4:00.
I parked at a side road and hopped a wall in the cemetery. A little irreverent, perhaps, but it initiates a familiar warmth and comfort I feel. After all, I’m a native now. As I walked along the old trees swaying in the breeze and the tidy rows of white headstones, I felt surrounded by friends and protected. I can’t help but know in my heart that this is precisely how each of these guardians of freedom would want me to feel. (emphasis added) Their service to this country is what makes this feeling possible for all Americans. Sometimes I’m still blown away by my blessing of being born in the U.S. I’m truly thankful every day for that. “
Sunday May 27, 2012 – Fort Leavenworth, KS
Tonight, after a dinner of corn chowder and homemade whole wheat bread, I took a walk. I needed some time to make a long overdue phone call to my dear friend Angela. I took a different route than my usual and began dialing. Instead of circling the golf course, I walked the roads around the national cemetery on post grounds. The flags were already in place, but I began noticing several that had fallen over already. As I walked and talked, I began to trace the rows in search of downed flags. I took a couple seconds to drive each of them back into the soil.
I don’t mean to make more of my small action that it was, but it struck me that it was symbolic of what Memorial Day is about. It’s a time to say thank you to those who have served. It’s a time to recognize the character of those who made the choice to put their life on the line as their job while most of us complained about our schedule. But, it’s also a time to take that fallen flag and let them know we’ve got it now. We will keep it planted. For our friends, we will carry on with what we share – an affection for this land.
Who am I kidding? I can’t say it any better than Lincoln did.
Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg PA. 11/19/1863
“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us. That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.”
My Father's Gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery