Last June, I was in Washington, D.C. for a short series of meetings. I had some free time before one of those meetings and I decided to squeeze in a little sightseeing. When I realized how easy it is to take the Metro (subway) to Arlington National Cemetery, my mind was set. Next stop, Arlington.
To my knowledge, I don’t have any relatives buried at Arlington. Still, simply walking the grounds is a sobering and humbling experience. Visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is especially moving. Staring over the vast number of graves – men and women who served, many who died while protecting our freedom – one cannot help but think about how very lucky we are.
The cemetery was crowded, and people were moving slowly. That was fine by me. I enjoyed looking at some of the section markers and, as is typical for Washington, DC, it was hot and humid, so a slow pace was perfect. It seems selfish to feel like you’re suffering when standing among so many graves, but summer weather in DC brings you to that point.
Returning from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I was following a mother and her two children. They were Hispanic. I wouldn’t normally mention that, but it’s important to the story. As a large group from a school field trip was approaching, the younger child tugged at the woman’s arm and complained. Unable to walk around them, I found myself unintentionally eavesdropping:
“I know it’s hot honey. We’ll be back at the welcome center in a few minutes.”
“Are these people related to us?”
“No. We don’t have any relatives buried here.”
“Then why did we have to come here?”
“Because all of these people died fighting to keep this country free. These people died so we could come here to live.”
“All of them?”
“Yes, all of them. That’s why we came to visit…to show them some respect and to thank them.”
I’m not going to extend this in support of a political or social agenda. I’m just going to say that I was impressed with the lesson this woman was teaching her children.
I hope we can take this woman’s message to heart today. I hope we can give some thought, and offer a few prayers for the brave men and women who died fighting for us, and the families they left behind. I hope we can also reflect on the many freedoms they fought for.