On Sunday, July 19, 2015, my family and I made the trek to Arlington National Cemetery. This trip was made just 4 days after the tragic events in Chattanooga, TN. We had been putting off the trip to Arlington because of Man Cub’s age – I wasn’t quite sure he would sit for the Changing of the Guard, which occurs every 30 minutes during the summer months, and every 60 minutes during the fall, winter, and spring months.
While we were at Arlington, Man Cub began saying some rather disconcerting comments. In looking out over the graves, he started talking about how “they are sad,” and, “we have to be sad for the bones.” He doesn’t know what bones are, nor does he know what grave markers and headstones are – and, who knows why exactly he said what he was saying… When I clarified what he was saying, he agreed with my translations and didn’t try to correct me, so I am pretty sure I interpreted his words correctly. It was a little eery.
As we stood at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I was given a moment or two without Man Cub pulling on me to reflect on all the men and women who lay entombed in Arlington, or who have an “In Memoriam” headstone at Arlington.
What kind of children were they? What kind of lifestyle led them to choose the military, or were they drafted? Where were their families now? What happened to their friends? What about the comrades in arms that they left behind when they were killed or died?
Were these individuals rambunctious toddlers, who enjoyed being the center of attention? Were they shy, withdrawn toddlers, who were wise beyond their years? Had any of these military personnel visited Arlington as children and teenagers, and did that spark their desire to serve?
So many thoughts about Arlington and our Armed Forces struck me on that trip on Sunday. Thoughts I am still trying to process and put into words.
In closing, I must admit as I stood there and watched the Changing of the Guard, I felt intense grief for the families, friends, and fellow service members of the USMC and USN members gunned down at work last Thursday: Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Sullivan (Hampden, MA), Lance Corporal Squire “Skip” Wells (Marietta, GA), Staff Sergeant David Wyatt (Burke, NC), Sergeant Carson Holmquist (Grantsburg, WI), and Petty Officer Randall Smith ((Paulding, OH).
May their families, friends, and comrades-in-arms find peace and solace in knowing their fellow countrymen and women, quite probably unknown to they and their loved ones on a personal level, stand in solidarity with them and ready to offer support whenever and however needed.
And, my prayer is that the Marines and Sailor rest in peace, knowing they did their duty both abroad, and at home. They were, each and every one of them, honorable and an asset to their branch of service, and an example of dedication to their country.