Memorial Day is technically and traditionally a day to honor those who died in service to our country, but for many, has expanded over the years into an honor of those we have lost in any way.
I have been incredibly lucky to have never lost a loved one in service to our country. I've had many friends and family members who have served, but they all made through alive. Thank God. So in today's blog I have no memory of a lost loved one who died in service to share with you. However, last April I made a trip to Washington DC and visited Arlington Cemetery. While there, I watched the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier. This was one of the single most power experiences of my life.
There was a large crowd of people there to watch, but they all fell silent. The normal jostling for the best position to see, had stopped. No one spoke. No one moved. The ceremony itself is so powerful in part because of how seriously the soldiers charged with the guard take it. This is the ultimate memorial to those who died in service. The tombs are guarded 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It is said by those who have served in that honor guard that a soldier is not dead until he is forgotten, and the honor guard never forgets.
The men selected to serve as guards take their responsibility very seriously, so seriously that they refused to leave the tomb even when the entire city of Washington was being evacuated for a hurricane. Standing there watching the service, I felt tears fill my eyes and eventually spill over. An incredibly powerful experience.
Later in that same trip I saw the Iwo Jima memorial at night. I was on a tour of the monuments by moonlight and the tour guide was extremely knowledgeable. We were told that if you drive around the monument there is an optical illusion that makes it appear as if the flag is actually rising as you watch. Me made that drive, and it did. My uncle's brother served at Iwo Jima, one of the small percentage of men there who made it out alive.
Washington DC has many memorials to our men and women who have died in service to our country. Each is powerful in it's own right. Seeing these, and being reminded of what has gone into protecting our country, was an experience I would not trade.
We are a country and a people who remember those who serve. A happy Memorial Day to you all.