I have to be careful how much news I watch. How often I get sucked down the rabbit hole of his opinion vs her opinion and all that that entails. It is difficult to get any truly impartial news anymore anyway so often I just tune it out.
What I have not been able to tune out, nor would I want to, the last few days is the heartbreak that 13 mothers are facing. The overwhelming and unending grief that they are consumed by as their brains try and make sense of the news that their selfless children gave their lives for their country. I don’t think I could come close to understanding their pain; but I think that every mother has some idea on some level the agony they would feel if they couldn’t hold their babies one more time. It was instinctual for me to want to reach out to mine this morning. To assure myself they are safe and whole. It brings tears when I think about those 13 mothers that will never have that comfort again.
In April Amy and I were fortunate enough to take a trip to Washington D.C. and I will carry the sense of patriotism I felt there for the rest of my life. As we stood in Arlington National Cemetery and watched a fallen soldier be taken slowly and with all the honor he deserved to his final resting place my heart ached for him and all the lives that lay before me. As the 21 gun salute rang out in the distance I got chills. You see I have always considered myself an American. Fred and I always taught our children to thank soldiers when they saw them. Buy their meal or their coffee. Small tokens that don’t equate at all for the sacrifices they make for us. Standing in that sacred space finally gave me a deeper understanding of what it means to be an American.
13 soldiers gave their lives for us. 13 mothers will never be the same. Their hearts are forever shattered. The only way we can honor that is by remembering their sacrifice every day as we go about our lives. Lives that are preciously free because of their sacrifice. By honoring our flag and our forefathers. By uniting as a nation and staring down terrorism and those that wish us harm.
All gave some. Some gave all.
To the veterans, to those on active duty, and to the families that support them. To those that have gone on due to their service. To the 13 mothers with broken hearts that I feel so deeply today.
As a kid in school I aced history. Not because I actually absorbed it but because I had a photographic memory and could just spit out what I needed to to ace tests and quizzes. As I wandered around Washington, DC yesterday how I wished I’d retained more of that info than I had!
I came to DC with the “standard” list of places to see. You know – the ones we see on TV? The Washington Monument from Forrest Gump… “Jenny? Jenny!” Lincoln. The White House. Along with the Arlington National Cemetery with Trace Atkins’ “Arlington” echoing in my head and visions of my husband crying every time he heard it. Every. Single. Time.
I also came conflicted about the trip due to things going on at home. My heart heavy and unsure if sightseeing was what I wanted to do.
When we left the car rental place and I started catching glimpses of things I had only seen on TV as Amy navigated DC roads (so thankful she drove so I could gawk), the air felt different. To me anyway. When we parked and walked up to the Washington Monument encircled with American flags at half mast I felt the same charge in the air that I felt previously at the 9/11 memorial in NYC. I knew other people were there but, for me anyway, I could feel the men who weren’t there. Those the monument represents. Our founding fathers that built this great country.
From there we walked into the WWII memorial. A lot to take in. Each pillar represents one of the 56 US states and territories. Then there is the wall of gold stars. That one got me. Each gold star represents 100 American military deaths…and there are 4,048 stars. So many lives given in service to our country.
It was a long walk to Lincoln. I was unprepared for how LARGE he is in person. It never looked like that on TV. It was really cool how deeply respectful people were inside the covered area near him. That is just something not seen very often anymore. The other thing I noted through all three places is there wasn’t the usual hocking of souvenir merchandise! No vendors in your face. It was hallowed ground.
Walking into the Korean War memorial…my grandpa served in Korea. I felt my gut clench and my heart ache. I miss my grandpa so. How I wish he had been there to tell me all the things I knew he could have told me. I heard a lady telling her kids as they walked by “their feet were never dry…” that I am sure was part of a larger story. I’m sure some of the nostalgia is the recognition that yet another part of my history in my grandma, and the stories that go with her, is about to pass but man….
Next stop in our day was back to the White House for me to actually take pictures. We had driven by that morning but I didn’t expect to want to do more than that. Somewhere in the mornings’ activity I realized it was the freakin’ White House and regardless of political views I was here and needed to do more than just drive by. 😬
We had a loop planned from here. We went to the National Cathedral. We couldn’t go in but what a beautiful building. We went to Georgetown for lunch. Hello crab dip and crab cakes. Ironically landed at the sister restaurant of our breakfast stop without meaning to (highly recommend both).
Then the cemetery. Anxious about this one because I knew it would be sobering but also something I really really wanted to see. We somehow managed to time it where we got to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier. If you do nothing else on a trip to DC? Do that. It brings the honor and respect all our military deserves right to the forefront of your mind. Side note: was super excited to see one of the guards on the change out be a female.
We also saw a horse drawn carriage with soldiers in full uniform taking a casket through the cemetery to a service. No words. Simply no words.
Winding our way through the hills of headstones, the quiet air in the cemetery reminding you it’s sacred space, just weighs your heart down. For me the repetitive thought was “every person here died for the freedom to do this”. How do I honor that? How do I repay that debt?
Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” has always been one of my favorite songs. I can remember almost blowing out a speaker after 9/11 playing it on an endless loop. My favorite part of the song?
“And I’m proud to be an American Where at least I know I’m free And I won’t forget the men who died Who gave that right to me And I’d gladly stand up next to you And defend Her still today ‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land God Bless the U.S.A.”
What I felt so strongly yesterday was if every American could feel what I felt yesterday there would be no division in this great land. We all bleed the same. There is no race or ethnicity under that sea of headstones in that sacred space. We are all simply bound by the ideas of some amazing men who foresaw what this country could be and worked to make it so. We have a rich history and amazing freedoms others aren’t lucky enough to have. THAT makes me proud to be an American. 🇺🇸