Sunday, June 8, 2014

Family, Flame, and Fallen Heroes

Memorial Day and the following week was time well spent for us as I hope it was for you.  My daughter Cyndi, her husband Bill, Fred, and I drove to Connecticut to spend the time with family.  We first spent a few relaxing days in Manchester, CT with my other daughter Tammy Sue and her husband Curtis.  Sitting around a fire pit at night, listening to Curtis play his guitar, family reminiscences, it was all good.

Memorial Day we drove to Seymour, CT. to spend time with my son, Michael, and his fiancée Kari and her family.  It was the first time in years that I’d been with all my kids at one time and I cherished every minute of it.  That was, after all, why we moved to the East Coast.

Mike, Cyndi, Tammy, Me

We spent the following week in Fairfield, CT. with my sister, Donna, and her husband Joe.  They’ve been married going on fifty-six years and are the epitome of what a solid marriage should be.  I hadn’t seen them in six years and it was important I see them before any more time elapsed.  Donnie and I are in our seventies, Joe is eighty.   Time is not on our side any longer so we no longer have the luxury of saying, “Maybe later.” The time was now. 

On the drive back south, we stopped at Arlington Cemetery.  Cyndi and I had been there before but Fred and Bill never had so it was important we stop and look around.  No matter how many times I visit Arlington, I am overcome with the honor and respect and reverence that exists with every step.  

On the way to the Tomb of the Unknowns, we stopped at JFK’s grave site and the eternal flame.  Forty years ago when I visited Arlington, his grave site and flame were on a grassy area next to Bobby Kennedy’s grave.  I know it was on grass because as I stood there gazing down and reflecting, the lawn sprinklers came on and I got wet!  Now, the eternal flame is on a cement platform with marble steps leading up to it, surrounded by a wall with President Kennedy’s “Ask not” speech engraved in the wall.  Next to the marker for President Kennedy is the marker for Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis, their infant boy and a stillborn girl.
Bobby Kennedy’s grave site is now a distance away, on grass.    

A walk down a flight of stairs brought us to the Tomb of the Unknowns.  The guard is changed every half hour during the summer so we were there in time to witness the ritual. The precision, timing, somberness of the occasion are what speaks to us visitors.  The sentinel takes twenty-one steps across a rubber mat, turns and faces the Tomb for twenty-one seconds, turns and faces the length of the mat for twenty-one seconds, switches his rifle to his shoulder nearest the crowd to show he is protecting the Tomb from any possible threat, then begins his (or her) twenty-one steps and does the same thing at the other end of the mat.  This process has gone on, day and night, good weather and bad, without interruption, since 1927. Twenty-one stands for the highest honor awarded a fallen serviceman; i.e., a twenty-one gun salute.  On the Tomb are these words:  HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD. 

Arlington is a place everyone in this country should visit to get back to our roots of what makes this country great.  From Arlington Cemetery one can look out and see the top of the Washington Monument reaching high above the trees.  It is difficult not to feel patriotic in such a setting.  Forty years ago, the sprinklers did not extinguish the eternal flame, weather will not prevent the sentinels from guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns, and neither terrorism nor politics will extinguish the pride that is a birthright of every American.

Quote of the Day:  God Bless America!

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