We meant to spend part of the day at Arlington Cemetery and the rest of the day at the Air and Space Museum. After all, it wasn’t our first trip out to Arlington, and we’ve been to the National Cemetery in Michigan a few times as well.
Turns out we underestimated our time wandering the cemetery grounds.
We spent nearly the entire day exploring, searching for particular grave sites, contemplating, watching. Listening. Listening to taps being played at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, listening to a marching band playing military music off in the distance during the changing of the guard…
…listening to a mocking bird singing high over the endless rows of white marble markers.
And toward the end of our visit just when I was commenting about how peacefully quiet it was, how beautiful this particular tree was…
…a military flyover came roaring up from the Potomac, right overhead, shattering the peace, but raising the awesome level of our total experience.
We saw Senator Frank Lautenberg’s grave site. He was always so supportive of our safety efforts. We miss him – he was a good man. His stone should have proclaimed his work toward saving people’s lives on our roads.
It doesn’t, but we know.
But the stone that touched me the most was that of Medgar Evers. A simple white stone, like hundreds of thousands of others, set down over a hill below President Taft, it was evident that several people had come to visit and pay their respects.
He did good work too.
Wandering in Arlington was beautiful, but oh so sad. Because we had to acknowledge that every one of the thousands of headstones represented a person, someone’s child. They all belonged to someone.
And now they all belong to us.
On the back of the stone for Oliver Wendell Lewis, a Major General who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam but was only 71 when he died, was this quote:
I like to think that those of us working for truck safety are doing just that – walking in the world for our loved ones. I think the General has it exactly right.
I wish everyone had the opportunity to visit this cemetery, to experience the solemnity, the sense of awe, the feeling of pride. I have to think the country would be in better shape if everyone spent a day exploring this special place.
There’s sadness here, but there’s peace and hope too.
Visit if you can.