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 ever fought.
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 Robert E. 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 all should pray for a day when we can thank these fallen soldiers for saving us from ever needing to add any more to their ranks — a time when no soldier would have to give his or her life in a war to preserve the very freedoms that have been taken from those already interred in Arlington cemetery.
As we all turn from the serene scene of Arlington on Memorial Day, we should all demonstrate that respect by making sure our country betters itself so that the sacrifices of the fallen will have even more impact. Those buried in Arlington gave up their lives so that we could have a better life. Given that fact, we should have even more resolve to our commitment to seeing to it that our lives become better, if for no other reason than to show that we are worthy of their sacrifice.
To show that commitment, we need to put a stop to graffiti, pick up our trash, be law-abiding citizens and marshal against the random abuse of laws by the criminal elements in our society.
Maybe we need to have some sort of mandatory national service by all persons of a certain age so that we can afford them the opportunity to give some sweat equity back to help our country maintain the high standards that our fallen heroes fought to save for posterity. It doesn’t have to be military service; there are many jobs our country could benefit from with the youthful energy these people would bring to the forefront in this effort.
We need to build respect for our country. We have many young people who are out of work, have virtually no job skills and, in some cases, no hope of developing any of these things in the near future. Maybe if these same young citizens were committed to a program that allowed them to restore some measure of pride in our society and country, then they too would feel as though they really are part owners of this country — as they should.
Our country is capable of many actions. If we can appropriate enough money to mount horrendous wars, then shouldn’t we be able to do the same for peaceful endeavors especially when it comes to helping better our country, its citizens and our national pride?
Tomorrow is a new day, so let’s all work to make it a better one than today. It might just work, too. Our fallen heroes would be proud of that, I’m sure. I can see them smiling now.
Larry Wilson is a 50-year resident of Sparks and a retired elementary school teacher. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.