I have been reflecting lately on the social turmoil cause by the Nike corporation, the President, the state of our nation and election over the last few days. I keep going back to one image in my head, the image of all the head stones at Arlington National Cemetery.
The stones are still white at Arlington,with no indication of what race, creed, color, financial status, or sexual orientation the person buried below them is. It also occurs to me that each and every one of them is burred with the same honor and dignity. Each is given the same size space and same stone marker. Each service member is remembered on the head stone in the same way. Each has served a greater cause for our freedom.
Their service and sacrifice rolls around in my head when I remember the 64 acres of these white marble markers. Everyone of them, (400,000 to be exact) has given to me and my country more than Nike, the NFL or even our president ever will. They signed away the rights to their lives the day they joined the United States military. They said that they would defend my home and my constitution with their very last breath if need be. They defended my life before I was born and created a safe place for me to protest if I choose to as an adult. It is their lives that allow us to vote for a president we may not like and to buy Nike shoes that millions across the world can’t afford to buy. Yet, some how this hollowed ground is forgotten…
It is forgotten that the flag of our country, our national anthem, our right to vote and our gift of personal freedom is all standing on the bodies that rest below these stone covered hills. The bodies that rest below the stones are white, black, brown, native and immigrant, female, male, gay, straight, religious and atheist, they are all still soldiers….one and all.
While standing on the hollowed ground of Arlington National Cemetery during a wreath decoration ceremony several winters ago, I was approached by a retired 2 Star General. She had spent her life as a United States Air Force Officer and Nurse. She asked me quietly while my friend Lt. Col. Katheryn Robinson Retired saluted a just placed wreath on a grave of a nurse, “Don’t you feel like saluting today?” The General had no idea that I was a civilian because it was not required to wear a uniform to the event. I turned to face her and replied, ” No Mama, I have not earned the right to salute these nurses. I am only the wife, sister and a daughter of a veteran”. I was at Arlington to only give thanks and experience the nation’s capital in a completely different way. I was honored to be placing wreaths on dozens of nurses graves. I was the least important one on the hill that day. Yet, I may have been the one who was most thankful for what these men and woman had given to me on that cool morning.
It seems to me that we need to take more of our teenagers to Arlington just about sun rise when the only thing you hear is the birds chirping and let them see a funeral precision with a horse-drawn Hurst rolling up the road through the thousands of white marble stones. Have them walk behind the flag covered casket and watch the 21 gun salute that rings for miles across the cemetery. Let them see a crying widow and child who have lost a loved one to the War on Terror, so that they can live free. I want to remind them what it means to be an American….
I send all of my heart felt thanks to my family and friends who have stood on the wall and drawn the line in the sand to say this county will always be free…. It is because of you my dreams in life have come true. May we all thank a veteran for their service today!