Arlington National Cemetery

My mothers father died before I was born, in a bicycle accident. Ive visited his grave site now and then with my family. Now my grandmother has joined him. A few months ago I was at his grave-site again, to attend my Grandmothers unveiling – the first time I visited the site visiting both of them together.

My sister and my grandmotherThis is a picture of my sister and my grandmother from Thanksgiving ’05, with uncle steve  in the background.

I went to a meeting this afternoon out in Shirlington. On my route I passed Arlington Cemetery, and its neat rows of markers. It made me think about Arlington as the place where the military family is buried together. Why is it that some of our military end up together in Arlington, and not with their relatives?

For some people joining the military is as much an economic choice as a moral one. Perhaps burial by the state helps the families bear a small portion of the burden that the loss brings. I understand also that burial at Arlington is a sign of accomplishment within the brotherhood and family of those whose work is to protect our country.

I appreciate President Obamas reference to the burden of duty in last nights address to Congress. He said:

As we meet here tonight, our men and women in uniform stand watch abroad and more are readying to deploy. To each and every one of them, and to the families who bear the quiet burden of their absence, Americans are united in sending one message: we honor your service, we are inspired by your sacrifice, and you have our unyielding support.  To relieve the strain on our forces, my budget increases the number of our soldiers and Marines. And to keep our sacred trust with those who serve, we will raise their pay, and give our veterans the expanded health care and benefits that they have earned.

To overcome extremism, we must also be vigilant in upholding the values our troops defend – because there is no force in the world more powerful than the example of America.

I agree with him about the example of America. I wrote something about that some time ago. The kicker in my piece was: “we measure our strength by our power to spread freedom, not only our ability to enforce it.”  Like the stones at Arlington, the American example – that shining city on a hill – is something that we each create together.  Arlington marks our nations protectors, and also the choices of our democracy.

[4/18/09: should have been, I think: ‘our capacity to inspire freedom, not only our ability to enforce it.’]

Arlington National Cemetery

First snow fall at Arlington in 2009

Photo by: Kaitlin Horst ANC staffer.