Probably our nation’s most recognized ceremony on Memorial Day takes place at Arlington Cemetery in our nation’s capital. The current president always lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown in Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day.
The former farm of Robert E. Lee, which was confiscated from his family during the Civil War due to failure to pay taxes – which Mrs. Lee attempted to pay but was rebuffed in doing so – in Washington, D.C. was transformed into the most serene resting place for our nation’s war dead as a putdown to Lee for having turned to the Confederate side during the Civil War. The serene tranquility and peacefulness is in direct contrast to the violent, tortuous end suffered by many of the interred in the cemetery. It is so peaceful there that one almost feels at times that this must be heaven on earth. The calm and quiet is only broken infrequently by the firing of 21-gun salutes as funerals are performed or by the playing of taps as the funerals conclude.
On Memorial Day, each of the graves receives a flag placed in front of the military issue headstone by soldiers carrying duffle bags full of flags. Each flag is placed on the grave by having the soldier place his heel against the headstone and the flag is then inserted into the ground at the toe of the soldier doing the placement. The addition of the flag to the countless rows of dressed right and covered down head stones quietly reverberates the patriotism with which each of the soldiers is credited with having for our country in making the supreme sacrifice. With each little breeze, the flags all wave in the same direction, quietly exhibiting the teamwork of the soldiers’ efforts as soldiers.
I don’t think a single person who has visited Arlington Cemetery can go away from that scene with a dry eye nor should they. True, it is a quiet, peaceful place full of serenity and tranquility, but it is also a huge commentary on the wastefulness of every war.
It is. after all, the final resting place of thousands of courageous and often young men and women who gave their all for our country in time of war. The former Lee farm now reaps a harvest of pride and respect for every soldier buried there as well as a reminder of the waste war brings to all of the participants on both sides. It also provides proof that freedom isn’t free.
We should all hope for a time when we can show respect for the deeds of those who have saved us all from having to ever again show our respect to the fallen soldier as it would be a time when no soldier would have to have his or her life taken from them in a war that is being fought to preserve the very freedoms that have been taken from those already interred in Arlington cemetery.
Larry Wilson is a 50-year resident of Sparks and a retired elementary school teacher. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.