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