For the Fourth of July this past year, my family and I traveled to our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. We joined thousands of other spectators as we watched a beautiful display of fireworks shot off behind the Washington Monument. Even though this is a once in a lifetime experience for many, my trip to Washington D.C is marked by another event that holds personal experience for me.
Washington D.C is our nation’s haven of democracy, change and honor. Everywhere you turn, monuments, statues and memorials represent these founding principles. To take full advantage of being in Washington D.C, my family and I decided to take a trolley tour around the city. After seeing the Jefferson Memorial, the next stop on the tour was at the Lincoln Memorial and the Arlington Cemetery. I had always wanted to visit this respected burial ground because I believe that it is a special place where our fallen soldiers can rest in peace and honor. Visiting the Arlington Cemetery was even more significant for me at the time because in March my boyfriend was sworn into the United States Marine Corps.
When we arrived at the cemetery, the sun was continuing to climb higher in the sky. Even though it was sweltering, I was still excited to walk around. As I entered through the visitor’s building, I found that heat did not stop others from paying their respects as well. At the entrance to the cemetery, I was surrounded by complete silence and white grave stones as far as the eye could see. My family and I made our way to the Kennedy’s grave site and continued to walk toward the Tomb of the Unknowns. The walk was made unbearable by the heat and we considered turning around. After considering our options, we decided to keep walking. I am glad that we did.
We reached a set of cement stairs and found what looked to be an empty stadium made of white marble. I looked around but did not see anything noteworthy. Someone even asked me where the tomb was. I walked around the memorial and that was when I found a sight that I will never forget. A number of people were silently seated on a set of stairs watching as a guard paced back and forth in front of three white tombs in the ground and a white block behind them. This block read, “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”
I joined the spectators on the steps and watched the guard walk in front of the tombs. I am not sure how long I sat on those steps, but as I sat there, I forgot how hot I was and how much my feet hurt from walking. My discomforts seemed minute when compared to the guard who continued to stand and protect the tombs in the blazing summer sun. I was inspired by the dedication and respect that was shown to the fallen soldiers who did not receive their proper recognition; a name and identity.
As I looked out over the white tomb stones, I felt so grateful for those who have defended our country in years past and for those who are overseas today. I wanted to whisper a thank you to every, fallen veteran as I walked through the cemetery.
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