A Garden of Stone

I led my daughters on a quiet walk through the grounds of Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in Point Loma near San Diego. They were quite taken with the sweeping vistas overlooking the Pacific. Yet, the rows upon rows of white grave markers drew their focus. They are a stark reminder of those who are laid to rest here, from the Mexican-American War (1846) to Iraq and Afghanistan. You will also come across markers for wives and young children of military veterans who are interred here.

a misty, morning fog shrouds and softens the cemetery view
Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery (Jun 2015)

the morning fog lifts away, revealing the rows upon rows of markers
Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery (Jun 2015)

Walking for 45 minutes, we reached the graveside of my friends to visit and bring them fresh flowers. David and Cherie are both interred here. David was killed in Afghanistan in 2011. His much beloved wife, Cherie, passed away 11 months later. We also brought flowers for another friend, JR, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. Though my daughters hadn’t met them, I spoke of my friends, describing to them the kind of men they were and what they believed in.

Afterwards, we met up with Amy, JR’s wife, and Jessica, their six year old daughter, near her husband’s grave. Amy was the balance in JR’s life, much like Cherie was the balance in David’s life. She was glad to finally meet the young women she heard so much about from Andrea. Forever devoted to their memory, Amy spoke of those closest to her. She has missed them so much the past few years. Cherie, her best friend. David, a friend who was much like a brother. JR, the balance in her life. However, there was no sadness in her voice or loneliness in her eyes. Time, and chasing after a little one, has eased the pain.

With Amy and Jessica, we continued our walk. At times in quiet, at times in hushed tones, but one of highest respect. Glance down a row, there are a countless stories waiting to be told. They are testimonies, not of heroism or sacrifice, but of everyday life.

like silent sentinels in formation
Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery (Jun 2014)

facing the Pacific and the promise of better days ahead
Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery (Jun 2014)

While the vast number of markers is a reminder of the high cost of war, the high cost of freedom, it is also a reminder of the promise that is America. They represent the best of America, that so many were willing to answer the call. Every stone marker, every grave, faces the Pacific. They face the horizon and each sunset. It is not because of lost promises and lost dreams, but rather, it is about living for today and living for tomorrow and the days after.

On this Memorial Day, do not remember them because of heroism, sacrifice or duty. Remember them as individuals. They are who made America.

May God bless them. May God bless America.

 

Notes

“Garden of Stone” is a reference given to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. It refers to the grave markers and monuments in the cemetery. Nearing its capacity, Arlington only accepts those killed in action and veterans who received the Medal of Honor, DSC/DFC/Navy Cross, and Silver Star.

Though officially at capacity, Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery will only accept those who have been killed in action, or those who have a spouse buried there. Veterans and their spouses are now interred at Miramar National Cemetery, located in the northwest corner of MCAS Miramar in San Diego.

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