Walking into Arlington National Cemetery there’s a certain heaviness you feel in both your body and soul, that owes to the solemnity of the hallowed ground you are about to experience. Your chest at once fills with a sense of sadness and pride for you know the best of our nation, those who have risked life and limb for our safety and the ideals we hold dear, are resting here eternally. Before you the seemingly endless rows of white headstones make you realize the length of breadth of the place and of the sacrifices that have been made by so many.
Showing respect here is of the utmost importance. My kids and I engaged in a full conversation on the way over, each assuring me they knew how to behave and what was expected of them. Sadly too many folks today don’t know what that means, and it made me angry seeing the lack of respect displayed by so many visitors who simply did not grasp what it meant to be here.
Our first stop was the grave of John F. Kennedy. The eternal flame burning as I had remembered it from another visit. My kids and I reflected on his death and our visit to Dallas. We also reflected on his life and legacy that we learned so much about at his library in Massachusetts. How might our country be today had those events on the fateful day that took his life been different?
Next we made our way to the grave of the unknown soldier. On our way we saw bouquets, and other personal items that were left at grave sites a sure sign of a grieving heart’s recent visit and a sign of someone who’s sacrifice was made not that long ago. Alongside me walked all three of my children, but I could not help but think of my son Isaac now 18 yrs old. In another time he might have been sent to war…
The ceremony of the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier is something to behold. It is said it is a great honor to guard the tomb and the tomb is never alone rain, shine, sleet or snow. It is carried out with precision every 30 minutes and with every salute and heel click you fell the reverence with which the guards serve. If you arrive early or after you witness the ceremony, do explore inside the visitor center behind the tomb. There are great artifacts such as military medals and a host of other interesting items to check out.
Once you are this far its an easy hike to Arlington House, Robert E. Lee’s estate on whose land the cemetery was built. As you make your way back and out of the cemetery through the seemingly endless rows of headstones, take a moment to thank G-d that you live in the land of the free and the home of the brave for it wouldn’t be so without the contribution of every man and woman buried here. Thank them for their service and ultimate sacrifice and be inspired to carry on their “good fight”.