I’ve held this post for quite a while. Today seems like a perfect day to finally write it.
If you know me, you know I’m quite the patriot. So much so, the National Anthem makes me tear up. But, I’m not blinded by nationalism. America has a great number of flaws. We pride ourselves on individualism, but we are a nation of more than 300,000,000 individuals. More than 300,000,000 individual views on what is right, what is ethical, what personal boundaries are, what government boundaries are, and every other aspect of life possible. More than 300,000,000 ways to live and to attempt to live among the other 299,999,999 people in this country.
As a group, we often really mess it up. I find it heartbreaking when we do. But, we also often get it right. We tend to help those who need it, protect those who can’t protect themselves, stand strong amid chaos, and work to ensure our sacred freedom remains for our future generations.
If (or should I say when) you have trouble seeing how great America is, try taking focus off the group as a whole and looking at the plethora of beautiful examples among the individuals within: The volunteer at the shelter, the child donating his allowance to the hungry, the emergency room workers, the people who keep us safe in our hometowns, maybe even the person who holds your hand when you simply can’t hold it together. No, these people are not unique to the USA, they exist in every country and culture. But, let’s not get so tarnished in our view of our own nation that we forget we also are a nation filled with these amazing people.
And some I find to be the most amazing: Those who have given their lives to protect the ideals we hold dear. And so, this post is for them. Thank you, today and everyday, to our service members, past, current and future.
Arlington National Cemetery
I had the opportunity recently to visit Arlington National Cemetery. If you ever have the chance to go, do it. It meant a great deal to me to be able to pay respects to the men and women who have given their lives to our country, many falling in battle, others given the honor of interment at Arlington because of their dedication to and work for the nation.
All I knew of Arlington was what I had seen in movies. Rows of identical white crosses or headstones. Yes, there were many areas just like that. But, there was much more to Arlington that I was surprised by. Much of it was like any other cemetery. There were big, ornate headstones and memorial plaques, statues, and even some small, nondescript markers.
We watched the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was a solemn experience. If you go, look in the schedule for the time during the day when they also play Taps. We weren’t expecting it, and had walked around to view the tomb from the back when we discovered that the ceremony had continued.
Even from the back of the ceremony and from a bit of a distance, the long, heavy notes of the bugle gripped me. The mournful melody pressed on me the weight of where I was and why our nation has not only that cemetery, but all our traditions that we hold so dear.
And so, I ended the visit looking across the hundreds of thousands of graves and saying a silent thank you to all of the individuals, in Arlington and elsewhere, alive and deceased, who have cared enough about our nation and the other individuals in it, to do what they can to make it better for all 300,000,000 of us.