Friday, December 16, 2011

Remember

A crisp, clear December morning.  Cars stop along a narrow roadway and we exit.  Ahead, a caisson drawn by horses, followed by men in military dress.  Across the field, a military band takes up "The Crusader's Song."  The family gathers.  A son and daughters, their spouses and children, and children's children.  A great heritage. 

The urn containing our grandparents is placed in the casket on the caisson.  They lead out and we follow on foot.  A last trip with them in the lead as the band begins to play, "God of our Fathers."  We follow the caisson to the final resting place in the cemetery.  Surrounded by thousands and thousands of others who served our nation, Nana and Papa are laid to rest.  It is so fitting that she is here, too.  The chaplain who conducted the ceremony referred to her contribution as well.  Papa fought in the wars, both Korean and Vietnam, but she kept the home fires burning. 

As the ceremony concludes, the flag is  folded and presented to their son, the guns fires a 21-gun volley, and the mournful notes of taps, played on a bugle, sound over the field.  From the grave in one direction is a perfect view of the Washington Monument.  In the other direction, through the trees, is the Arlington House.  And in this hallowed ground, we leave them, to wait until they are called forth in the resurrection.

Accompanying the family is a gracious woman, one of the Arlington Ladies.  These wonderful women ensure that no matter what, not one of our military members is ever laid to rest without someone there. 

I could spend days in Arlington, wandering among the stones.  At one place we come upon a large tomb.  Inside are the remains of more than 2100 Civil War soldiers who died and were unable to be identified following the battle of Bull Run.  They are gone, I'm sure many without descendants to remember them.  But they were willing to lay down their lives for freedom.  Near the more well-known Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where the remains of men from WWI, WWII, and Korea (those from Vietnam were eventually able to be identified), is a bell tower.  It is dedicated as a memorial to the men and women from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.  The last line addresses these noble people and says, "While these bells ring, safely rest.  Freedom lives."  These men and women who gave their lives for the freedoms I enjoy. Freedoms I often don't even think about, but take for granted. 

Down in Washington, DC, we visit many other sites.  We see the Holocaust Museum and revisit the atrocities there.  We see the Lincoln Memorial and read his immortal words from the Gettysburg Address and his second inaugural speech as he pleads with us to better ourselves.  To remember and reach higher. 

We visit the WWII Memorial at night.  It is so peaceful there and is a beautiful monument to those who preserved world peace and freedom.  At the Vietnam Wall we read the names of men, listed in the order that they fell.  Near the very end, we found flowers with a note on them.  They were dedicated to a vet who served and then died young after the war.  Many, many years later, his cause of death was identified as Agent Orange. 

The Korean War Memorial is opposite the Vietnam Wall.  Nineteen men, some looking like mere boys, show a military squad on patrol.  It is a haunted, hunted expression on most of their faces.  One in particular, appearing about 16 years old, looks right through you as you gaze on him.  To the side is a black granite wall with images taken from photos of military members.  About half-way down, Tricia and I found one that looked very much like Papa would have at that time.  On the wall behind the men is etched, "Freedom is not free."  It's not free.  Still today, men and women pay that ultimate price for us. 

All over Washington, DC comes the plea:  Remember.


** Most pictures are from the Internet.  I will replace them with ones taken on the trip once I get a hold of them.

1 comment:

  1. Visiting DC is one of the top things on my bucket list. Thanks for sharing your experiences and photos.

    ReplyDelete