Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington Cemetery-7914

When we woke up in Alexandria yesterday morning, there was a light dusting of snow on the ground, and more snow falling. It was wet snow, the kind that makes icy snowballs and makes everything else sodden. We were headed home, but on our way, I wanted to make my first trip to Arlington National Cemetery. On the short drive up, I wondered how I had managed to not visit the resting site of our military dead all this time, but once I’d been there, walked around, and seen some of the grounds, it seemed fitting that my first time was as an adult.

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Any graveyard is a solemn reminder of our mortality–our lives are fleeting and precious. Arlington is orders of magnitude more sobering, with its seemingly endless rows of neatly spaced white headstones. They reach as far as you can see, rolling gently with the hills, punctuated by various memorials, and overlooked by trees.

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Here’s the part where I perhaps start to sound like a curmudgeonly old man. Ludicrously, amongst the men and women who paid the ultimate price to defend our country from all manner of enemies and preserve our freedom, were folks posing for smiley snapshots, and teenagers on field trips, goofing around and sight-seeing as if surrounded by stores at the mall rather than rows upon rows upon rows of servicemen and women in their final resting place. Indeed, it was only some of the foreign visitors who seemed to really grasp the gravitas around the eternal flame at the gravesite of President John F. Kennedy.

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I can’t assume that all of these folks don’t have an appreciation for the freedom they enjoy thanks to the buried dead around them. Still, with the joking and sliding, the “I was here, too” photo ops and silly poses, it is hard to imagine they understood upon what hallowed ground they trod.

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Perhaps I am being too harsh, and the dead rest easier knowing that their sacrifice allows such obliviousness. Perhaps they are not around at all to see it. But if we can’t seriously reflect on our most precious gift of life on some of the most sacred ground in our country, we are certainly doomed to repeat history again and again, adding to the already too-full cemeteries dedicated to conflict and war.


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