November 11, 2010
Walk at the Cemetery
The brisk autumn breeze whipping at my face as I ascend the stairs from the Metro sets the mood for my adventure. I wasn't quite sure what drew me towards Arlington National Cemetery, but I was sure that it was no one motivator. Walking through the wrought iron gates, I felt as if a hush fell over the land stretched before me.
As I began my course through the vast grounds, I couldn't help but feel as if I were simply one more passerby. The millions of visitors that have come and gone from the hallowed cemetery are as numerous as the thousands that have come to stay at Arlington. The gravestones seemed to spread out in every direction from wherever I stood. The cold gray stones against the green lawns, protected from the blue skies by trees covered in warm orange, red and yellow fall leaves. Every emotion could be felt at some point throughout the cemetery.
With no real planned exploration, I began to wind my way along the paths past gravestone on which read names of soldiers spanning time, No beginning and no end to the pain of loss. Up a slightly elevated plateau burns the eternal flame. The gravesite of President John F. Kennedy, one of two presidents buried at Arlington.
Surrounding his memorial were signs reading, “Silence and Respect”. A reminder to every visitor of the honor deserved by every fallen soldier who rests here. It was impossible to even think of uttering a word and silence enshrouded the entire cemetery. Even amidst the noise and mayhem of Washington DC, Arlington lay still. Much more than the National Cemetery, but a symbol of pain and struggle.
Slightly more centrally on the grounds rests the homage to the Unknown Soldiers. Perhaps the most revered location within the entire cemetery. Protected by guards every second of every day, in every season and any weather. The guards who dutifully watch the tomb are members of the most elite Honor Guard. A job rewarded to only the most dedicated soldiers.
Even more revere than the duty of each member of the Honor Guard is the Changing of the Guard Ceremony. Each step rehearsed, every breath practiced. The belief held by each that, “Soldiers never die until they are forgotten. Tomb Guards never forget.” Even though the names of every unknown soldier are known only to God, they are held with the utmost dignity by every guard.