On Saturday, May 25 2013, a little after 3:00pm, I was standing at the top of the stairs with 3 other individuals preparing to participate in the Landstuhl Hospital Care Project’s (LHCP) Arlington National Cemetery Wreath Laying ceremony. As I wait for the Honor Guard, I reflect on the day.
It started early with breakfast at IHOP with Brian and Karen Grimord. Brian and Karen then took my husband, Paul, and me over to see a few of the monuments in Washington, DC before we headed to Arlington National Cemetery. We visited the Lincoln Memorial, where we were reminded of many events in history, then we visited the Korea Memorial, which gives you the feeling you are walking with the soldiers as they emerge from a tree line. We then, went to the Air Force Memorial which reflects the missing man formation as three spires rise into the air. We also visited the World War II Memorial, where I wished my Dad, Pop and Uncle Larry could have seen this tribute to those from past wars. One young man came up to us and wanted to know from one of our group, “Can you tell us your story?”
From the WWII Memorial, we go to the Pentagon Memorial where Flight 77 flew into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. This memorial honors both those on Flight 77 and those in the Pentagon that were killed that day. We were there to pay respects to one of our LHCP Honorees, Daniel. Each shipment of comfort and care items is shipped in Honor of a military member who has given the ultimate sacrifice. We read Daniel’s biography, laid flowers by his bench (Daniel liked blue flowers) and said a prayer. His family is unable to visit, so we paid our respects. We then had time to walk through the Memorial area.
We then go to Arlington National Cemetery. We meet our group at Section 60, one of the larger areas in the cemetery. Section 60 has the largest number of resting places for our service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The night before, at Brian and Karen’s house, we prepared bouquets of flowers for each of our Honorees. At each gravesite, one person read the biography and we were introduced to this individual and a small part of their life. It became real, it became emotional. We took the time at each Honorees gravesite to become acquainted with them through their biography and prayed for their family and their loss. We saw many friends and family of the fallen in the cemetery, where they came to spend the day with their loved ones.
Around 2:45pm, we make our way to the Tomb of the Unkown. Standing with me at the top of the stairs is Marine Corporal David Chirinos, who represents all of our wounded Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. Standing next to David is Army Sergeant Jeremy Strader, who represents the Combat Medics and all of the medical personnel who care for the wounded and injured at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center or Combat Hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan. Next to me is Ruwan Arseculeratne, who represents all of the sponsors who give so freely to support LHCP. Their steadfast support allows for many good things to be done for our injured and wounded. And me, I represent all of the volunteers who have a heart for service for our military. As I look out over the Tomb and see all of the grave markers, I am reminded of the vast treasure of talent, creativity and ingenuity that our country has lost. I am also reminded of words in a poem by Archibald MacLeish, “The Young Dead Soldiers”.
The Young Dead Soldiers do not speak Nevertheless they are heard in the still houses. (Who has not heard them?) They have a silence that speaks for them at night And when the clock counts, They say We were young, We have died, Remember us. They say We have done what we could But until it is finished, it is not done. They say We have given our lives But until it is finished, no one can know what our lives gave They say Our deaths are not ours They are yours They will mean what you make them. They say Whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say It is you who must say this. They say We leave you our deaths Give them their meaning Give them an end to the war and a true peace Give them a victory that ends the war and peace afterwards Give them their meaning! We were young, they say We have died Remember Us.
The Honorees we remembered this year with the Wreath Laying Ceremony are a representation of the many who have given their lives for freedom. How will we give their lives meaning? How will we remember them?