MEMENTOS

Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery

June 2, 2013

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A week later, and finally getting around to posting some photos from Memorial Day.

Memorial Day weekend was pretty laid back for us — we test-rode some Brompton bikes at our local bike shop, ran a ton of errands, worked on building the garden bed (we are super duper late this year with garden stuff), hung out with our nephew who had to come over to rescue us from our own deck because we (this time it was Sly) locked ourselves out again (and once again wearing only PJs), and spent lots of time catching up, trying new restaurants, and enjoying the before-summer-heat weather.

We are rarely ever in town for Memorial Day since, like most people, we like to take advantage of the 3-day weekend to travel somewhere. Since we stayed home we decided to visit Arlington National Cemetery. Kind of a dumb move on our part since everyone, including the president, was at Arlington at the same time. Just as we were about to get off the ramp and turn into Arlington National Cemetery, a cop on a bike sped by and blocked off the road. Turned out we had to wait for the Presidential motorcade to pass, which took FOREVER and had traffic completely stopped and backed up for miles and miles. It was totally a scene from The Walking Dead with people hanging out of their cars and sitting or standing in the road/highway.


My dad is buried in Section 60, which is where the majority of those killed in OEF have been laid to rest. Nearly seven years ago, this section was empty. Now it’s completely filled.

Every time we visit Dad, I walk around the rest of section 60 to pay my respects. Most every tombstone has a story attached to it — a letter, a can of beer left behind, a few stones, photos of daughters and wives and family members, pictures drawn by children that read, “to Daddy.” It always gives me a huge lump in my throat to realize that so many of those lost were so young. So many were just kids.

We don’t usually see too many people when we visit — usually a mom sitting in a chair off in the distance spending the day with her son or daughter, or sometimes a wife or girlfriend or daughter or sister lying on a blanket beside a loved one — but on Memorial Day there were people everywhere — hugging, crying, laughing, remembering. There were family members, curious strangers, and reporters all there for the same reason.

Every single headstone had a flag waving in the front and rose draped over the top. Roses and flowers of all sorts were handed out to visitors by boy scouts and volunteers and military vets to place wherever they wanted. I saw many people walk silently through older sections of forgotten wars stopping to read names and leave a flower or two. It was beautiful as much as Death can be beautiful. And then an old gentleman dressed in full Scottish regalia started playing Amazing Grace. He started at the end of Section 60 and walked row by row, playing a selection of sad songs that sounded ten times more heartbreaking when played with the bagpipes.

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