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Remembrance

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I visited Arlington National Cemetery in the fall of 2007. The perfect rows of white headstones and somber atmosphere left an impression on my heart forever. It felt like there was an elephant sitting on my chest as I read the names of strangers engraved in stone and I was overwhelmed by the thousands of courageous stories that lay in the ground at my feet.

With Iwo Jima sitting at the entrance and the Argonne Cross within walking distance, emotions and empathy had me teetering on the edge of being a complete blubbering idiot. I held it together until I reached the Tomb of the Unknowns where I was fortunate enough to see the Changing of the Guard.

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I held my breath during the playing of TAPS and was mesmerized by the precise motion of the soldiers. The silence and tension were palpable in both uniformed and civilian alike and I had an overwhelming sense of not deserving to be there. It was then that I cried tears for the many I’ll never know and be forever unable to thank.

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If you read my November post, Hug a Soldier, you’ll know that I’m quite sentimental when it comes to the men and women who serve and have served in our armed forces. And while I still feel that sentiment deep inside, this post is not an attempt to incite tears, make you sad or bow to Old Glory. Instead, this is my humble tribute to the brave lives they lived and the gift they leave behind.

“Human beings are made up of flesh and blood, and a miracle fiber called courage.”
George S. Patton Jr.

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Meaningful relationships leave marks and I’m thankful for the nicks and cuts that have left a few scars in my own life. These remind me how blessed I am to be such a deep lover of the few protected inside the roll cage of my heart.

As the wounds become scars, I know that the best reflections aren’t sad, sappy place markers intended to drain, depress and drive down. Instead, they are necessary craters purposefully excavated to lay treasured memories and to cultivate like seeds nesting right under the surface.

We see the folded flags and peonies decorating the ground by the stone slabs that mark our veterans’ legacy. What we don’t see is what I pray that those families have the most of–cherished photographs, scraps of  letters, a scent of a shirt and favorite conversations to replay over and over again.

 

As I hold on tight to my children and visit the trail of memories stamped in my heart, I break apart inside as I think about what Memorial Day means and those who have made such a selfless sacrifice. It’s because of them that I’m hugging my family today and for that I am forever thankful.

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Enjoy the video See You Again by Carrie Underwood–it’s a beautiful, positive reminder of what today is all about. xo

Do you have a fallen soldier you call your own? If so, please share his or her story below. Feel free to share as much or as little as you want. I would be deeply honored to have them memorialized on this page.

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Posted in parallel to Freedom is Not Free on Ps and Qs.

 

 

 

33 thoughts on “Remembrance”

  1. what a beautiful post, thank you for writing it.
    In memory of Oal;ey Lytton and Charles Furrow 2 brave men who fought for our country in World War 2, and who i was lucky enough to call grandpa.

  2. “As the wounds become scars, I know that the best reflections aren’t sad, sappy place markers intended to drain, depress and drive down. Instead, they are necessary craters purposefully excavated to lay treasured memories and to cultivate like seeds nesting right under the surface.”

    Michelle, this is so beautiful. I grew up a military brat. Both my father and step-father are retired from military. Both have been to war. This is such a touching post. I will be glad to see the day humanity evolves past war and death as a means to freedom. If other primates can do it, so can we.

    xox

    1. I thought of you and your family as I wrote this. It was so hard to write and I think I’m going back and eliminating a quote…I don’t think it’s “foolish” to mourn. It ate on me during my run this morning…
      As always, thanks for your kind words and for sharing your military family with us. Xo

      1. No, it’s not foolish to mourn at all. I called my dad, step-dad and mom this morning and thanked them for their sacrifices. My mom made huge sacrifices, too. Military wives are the unsung heroes, too.

      2. Phew! It’s gone…NOW, the article is finally right. It took me a long time to write just a few words and knew that something was still nagging at me.

  3. Arlington Cemetery definitely brings up emotions of many kinds. I was in high school when I saw it so I don’t think I appreciated the magnitude like I would now. Still, I relate to the emotional response you describe about our fallen soldiers. We proudly fly a flag at our house and I cry like a baby during national anthems (even on TV).
    To give your life for the benefit of those you don’t even know is such a demonstration of selflessness. And the freedoms we have because of those sacrifices is mind numbing. So many people take for granted: we can worship freely, vote for our political leaders, enjoy freedom of speech, are protected by regulations and laws intended for civilians.
    BTW Carrie’s song is a tear-maker for me, too.
    Thanks for a great post today, Michelle.

    1. We must be sisters! It takes everything I have not to burst into tears during the National Anthem….at a football game!!!!
      Thank you so much for the wonderful words you post as a tribute–beautiful and poignant and an honor to those who served.
      Hubby hollered at me from a back room when I was playing Carrie’s song and asked, “why are you playing that? Is this going to be sad?!”
      I simply said, “Nope! It’s happy-sad!”
      Thank you again–you made my day!

  4. My grandfather is buried at Arlington National. I remember every detail of the ceremony that was held: The Honor Guard, the pallbearers crying (who never met him), the 21-gun shot salute. I even remember what I was wearing.

    It has been too long since I have been up there, and today would have been difficult. I am hoping to go one weekend soon.

    1. Hi Sheena,
      The replies and messages I’m getting today send shivers. Thank you for sharing your perfect story and telling us about your grandfather.
      I was looking through the official web site this morning and see that their morning ceremony in the atrium was completely packed.
      No words.
      xo

  5. Such a beautiful tribute. I’m so thankful for all the men and women who serve our country and fight for freedom the world over. I would love someday to see Arlington National cemetery. I’m not a crier, but that one seems to touch me even in pictures and I don’t doubt my tearducts would be unbound there.

    1. Hi Char,
      I just shared with Josie that I’m not a crier either! Just something about Arlington that incites that emotion…it’s both cathartic and draining. Thank you for stopping by and for adding your own kind words. I always love hearing from you! xo

  6. You posted Hug a Soldier on the day my Grandpa died. He served in WWII and was fortunate enough to come home, raise a family and dote on us until the age of 89. Had his plane been shot down over Germany, an entire family wouldn’t be here and that’s what makes my heart heavy on Memorial Day – the futures lost for so many. Beautiful post.

    1. Oh my goodness…more goose bumps, Karen.
      I love imagining your doting Grandpa. That generation is the one responsible for making me such a patriot today. I remember seeing Private Ryan with many vets in the audience…it was heartbreaking and humbling all at once. I often think of what you eloquently shared above and am so thankful that my pieces and parts of my family survived, too.
      Condolences on the loss of your Grandpa and thank you for sharing a bit of him today. xo

    1. Thank you, Josie!
      I’m not a crier either, and for some reason I’m really emotional when it comes to our soldiers. Probably because I know so many and have seen first hand what war can do to a family.
      Thank you so much for your kind words…I need to get caught up on your site…it’s been too long! xo

  7. this was so beautiful – perfect actually – streamlined SO well – and I can’t write much now – but I shall be back later – hugs in the meantime – <3 <3

    1. You are so intuitive, Yvette. You must have known that my original post was over 1000 words. I quickly realized that it was too much about “me” and chop, chopped, chopped!! Thank you for stopping by and providing such kind comments.
      Hope you are having a great week!
      Hugs back!

      1. well that is interesting to hear that you did some chopping – and while I did not see what was edited – I have to say thanks for doing that because it really does take thought and balance – and I just left my other comment below – and in this case – I’d say your trimming was done like a CIA chef. :)

      2. You are TOO kind!
        I was a very bad WP reader last week and hope to get caught up. You will be seeing me around in your space very soon…I’ll bring tea and cookies :-)

    1. Awwww….you have no idea how much you made my day :)
      BTW: I read the answers to your multiple questions last week. So intriguing and fascinating. It’s on my mental list to go back and re-read a couple of sections in particular. YOU, my friend, are the good egg :-)

  8. Hey Mama-joy – um, I mean mama-mick! Really enjoyed this and I found that coming back today the pictures struck me more. Each hand selected photo was amazing – and of course your words flowed seamlessly in between each photo!!

    and well, the first shot – looking down the row of flags and stones had such an artsy feel – like the stones to the left were not so perfect and it added to the flow of the line you give us in this down view. And I did not get to go there for this holiday – and so this was extra appreciated.

    I also love the tone on the next photo of the tomb stone s- the 3rd photo – the mix between sepia and b & w (not sure of what that tone is) but it was perfect for the feel of the post at that time – and then allowed the three little colored photos to speak even more near the end of this post. such a great flow.

    but my absolute favorite shot- from this post – and maybe from all of what I skimmed this past couple of weeks – well it was the man in the red jacket pointing to that memorial.

    It is one of those photos that “says a 1,000 words” – the age of the man, his companion, the red of his jacket, the crouched position, the reflection, the clarity, the angle – and it fit in so nicely too.

    have a great rest of the weekend and peace to you! :)

    1. Yvette,
      You humble me with your kind words and dedication to come back and look again. I’m at a loss for what that means to me.
      Your favorite photo is mine, too. Those gentlemen were at the Vietnam wall when I snapped the picture. They stopped at several points on the wall and pointed out the name of someone they knew in each place. They didn’t even care when I gave hugs to hide the tears.
      Thank you again for your kind words!!
      (PS: most of the filters on this post were Lomo Camera effect from Photoshop. It changes the color tint slightly without altering the picture too much.)

  9. No fallen soldiers, but lots of military in my family, including a grandfather who fought in France during WWI and an great Uncle who also fought in France during WWII. A brother who served in the Nave, a sister who did 20 years in the Navy, another brother served in the Marines.

    Eight years ago I had the honor of attending a military burial at Arlington – the father of a dear friend. He had served in the Pacific during WWII. It was something I will never forget.

    Though what I keep wishing, hoping for is peace.

    Thanks for the post. It is good to remember what we owe.

    1. What a lovely reply, dear Mary. Thank you so much for sharing your family’s military history and for letting us see a piece of them.
      As important, thank you for sharing your wish and hope for peace. It reflects what I pray for every day so that siblings like yours get to stay home.

  10. I liked this tribute a lot, I enjoyed reading about your personal experience :)
    I went to the memorial at Caen in Normandy when I was 15 during a school trip and it was very impressive, you said it in better words than I could have used. It reminds us of the sacrifices people made for the freedom we too easily take for granted (as someone said above).
    Someone once said “If people respected the living as they did the dead the world would be a better place”… or something in these waters…

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