Memorial Day for a veteran

Memorial Day this year seemed to be more personal now that I’m here in the nation’s capital.

Usually, I’m working at a part time job or simply enjoying a day off. Since I’m out here, I took the opportunity to go to Arlington National Cemetery for the day.

It was going to be a HOT day, so I layered on the sunscreen and filled up a very large water bottle. We got there in enough time to see the President and the First Lady drive up to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

You can see the outline of Mrs. Obama’s head in the back window

While it’s cool to see the President’s motorcade, I was much more impressed with the Honor Guard that was present. I was dripping sweat in a sundress in the shade, and these guys were in their full dress uniform in the sun.

Because of the ceremony taking place at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, we decided to stop by Section 60 to pay our respects. For those who have never been to Arlington before, there are different sections of the cemetery to make it easier to find the graves. Many of the sections are dedicated to certain conflicts, like World War II or Vietnam. Section 60 is where our newest casualties are laid.

It is certainly different than the rest of the cemetery for a couple reasons. First is the age difference. Many of those buried in Arlington who fought in WWII, Vietnam or Korea lived to be older than 60 years old before being buried (Yes, I know many, many died during these conflicts. I’m talking about those buried in Arlington only). In Section 60, many are under 30. I saw many who were born the same year as my brother and me.

Second is the amount of activity. Many of the other sections are calm and quiet. There are flowers laid from families, but in general it’s a peaceful area. Section 60 has much more going on. There are flowers, photos, and other mementos over many of the gravestones. Today, many Gold Star families brought chairs and umbrellas to their loved ones stones to spend time with them.

While I did not know anyone who is buried in Arlington in Section 60, I was much harder than I thought it’d be. To see so many of my brothers and sisters in arms laid to rest in this single area really dug at my heart. Many were my age or younger. It’s hard to put into words how I was affected by visiting this section, but it was much more powerful than I anticipated. After 10 minutes, I had to step away.

After laying roses on the grave of a Marine my age and a Seaman my brother’s age, we left to walk to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

On our walk up, we saw the President leaving the cemetery.

You can see the outline of the President’s head in the back window

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was a quite, solemn place (as quiet as you can get hundreds of people to be).

Although the President laid his wreath and left, many other groups lined up to lay their wreaths. The organization I am a member of, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, was also laying a wreath.

I actually met IAVA’s Policy Director, Jonathan Schleifer, while standing off to the side of the tomb in the shade. He was there with Tom Tarantino, who laid the wreath for IAVA. It was great to meet one of the IAVA team who has been fighting hard for us vets.

Although it was close to 100 degree heat index, there is no where else I’d rather be. It definitely puts things in perspective. While I was in Section 60, all the little things I worry about seemed like non-issues.

Hopefully, I will be able to go again next year.

I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day and thought about those who sacrificed their lives for this country.

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