A special contributing post by Andrea Kanakredes, RN, MSN and Lauren Westin, MD.
“No one speaks of sacrifice. Coming home is all that matters.”
In 2004, there was a short news item in which a 12-year old girl decorated the long forgotten Civil War section of the local cemetery in her town, in her home state of Tennessee. The year before, she noticed the many small American flags in the other sections of the cemetery. The Civil War section had become overgrown with tall grass and was heavily shadowed by towering trees. She asked the cemetery caretaker who were buried there, noting she hadn’t seen anyone visiting that particular section. The caretaker had replied those buried there were mostly Union soldiers and a few Confederate soldiers from the Civil War. It was his guess there were no more family to come visit. Their friends, long gone as well. She asked if she could leave some flags and a few flowers for those buried there. The caretaker said sure. He would see the grass would be cut and the trees trimmed.
On the Sunday before Memorial Day, the 12-year old planted nearly 100 small American flags. For the Confederate soldiers, she also left a small Confederate flag with the American flag. She also left a single flower at each grave site. When asked why she did it, the girl replied it was sad that they were forgotten. No one is left to visit them, let alone remembered. They were someone’s son, brother, husband or uncle. They gave all so that we could become a better nation.
On the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson take time to honor the soldiers, from the post, who have fallen in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the memorial, located at the Main Gate, a ceremony honors them. They also add the names of those who may have fallen in the past year. Sadly, seven names were added to the memorial this year.
The ceremony itself is a very moving experience. Your heart skips a beat, your breath taken away, when you hear the name of a soldier called, signifying their addition to the memorial.
Walking among the memorial stones, there is a sense of sadness. It is heightened when you see the mementoes left by the family and friends. The groundskeepers for the memorial carefully archive each memento, each letter, each photo left behind before they are stored away. Yet, there is a sense of thankfulness for the young men and women who gave so much. Their greatest desire was to come home, to be with their friends and family.
The greatest fear of any soldier is to be forgotten if they were to die on the battlefield. They hope there would be someone who will remember, who will stand vigil for them. But, in time, they know they will be another name on a forgotten memorial.
To our friends who died in Afghanistan four years ago and five years ago, we miss you greatly. We know your families miss you even more.
May God bless them. May God bless the United States.
These photos were taken in June 2011. The memorial was commemorated in June 2004. Without fanfare, former President and Mrs. Bush have visited the memorial, taking time to study many of the names and offering silent prayers.