In my adolescent years, my family took a trip to Washington, D.C.
To be honest, I don’t remember much of the trip, as I’m sure I spent entirely too much time being a teenager whose nose was stuck in his phone.
I do recall visiting most of the iconic destinations, such as the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Capitol Hill and of course, the White House — unfortunately, we actually didn’t get to tour the president’s home.
But the unforgettable experience came about 20 minutes away in Virginia, when we got to visit Arlington National Cemetery and witness the Changing of the Guard.
Arlington National Cemetery is 639 acres of beautiful landscape that is the final resting place for thousands of our nation’s veterans dating back to the Civil War. To date, there are approximately 400,000 graves on site.
For readers who have seen the cemetery in person, you’ll understand when I say that there’s a sobering aura to the place that I’ve never felt anywhere else.
We read the number of soldiers who’ve died in battles throughout the ages, but on paper it doesn’t seem like much. But when you lay your eyes on the grounds at Arlington, as markers upon markers flood the fields, your eyes are opened. You finally understand the magnitude of those numbers, and you realize they are so much more than that.
What a sight to behold.
He wasn’t the most eloquent president in our country’s history, but, in 2005, I believe President George W. Bush said it best:
“Looking across this field, we see the scale of heroism and sacrifice. All who are buried here understood their duty. All stood to protect America. And all carried with them memories of a family that they hoped to keep safe by their sacrifice.”
An even greater spectacle, in my opinion, is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Changing of the Guard.
No one is buried in the tomb. Rather, it is simply a monument that represents all of our fallen soldiers whose remains are unidentified. An inscription on the tomb states, “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known only to God.”
The statement, “Honoring and keeping faith with America’s missing servicemen 1958-1979,” is carved into one of three pavers set in front of the tomb.
Twenty-four hours a day, soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” stand watch over the Tomb. The Changing of the Guard occurs every half hour from April 1 through Sept. 30 and every hour from Oct. 1 through March 1.
This Memorial Day, my heart goes out to the families of those soldiers — not only those who died, but also the ones who never made it home. So often, we take those lives for granted.
I’m thankful to live in a place where there have been and continue to be so many men and women willing to put their lives on the line to serve our country and defend our freedoms.
Many of us will enjoy a day off from work Monday, and while doing so, I encourage you to try visiting one of our local memorials or attending a ceremony to honor the fallen. And if you’ve already committed to other plans, I implore you to take but just a moment to think about the sacrifice of those men and women. Send up a prayer for the families who are still in mourning.
After all, as someone once said, our nation’s heroes paid the price for freedom with their lives, and that is a debt we, as a society, will never be able to adequately repay. Nevertheless, we should do all we can to show them our appreciation and respect.
Taylor Beck is editor and publisher of The News. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.