“They seem to go on forever.”
The grave markers in any national cemetery seem to be endless. Row after row of white stone. They reflect the high cost of freedom, the high cost of war, and of those who answered the call of duty. The vast number of markers is also a reminder of the promise that is America. They represent the best of a nation, the greatness of a nation, willing to give so much.
It was early 1965. One of the kids at the grade school I attended had lost their dad in a far off place. Not many were aware of the simmering war in Vietnam, a war ready to explode. Though in the same grade, I did not know him. The death of the boy’s dad spread like wildfire through the school. “What do you say,” was the common refrain. Somehow, word had gotten back the third-grader said, “I hate America. They sent my dad to some faraway place to die.” A strong sentiment. Another boy, in the fifth or sixth grade said the unthinkable, “Perhaps it was good his dad died.” Being part of a military family also, the older boy was reprimanded by his parents for his insensitivity. The older boy’s dad, in uniform, and mom in her Sunday best, apologized to the school for their son’s callousness. “It is not part of the values he has been taught at home.”
The sentiment of the younger boy was understandable. Those who remained home during that war, or any other, probably may not fully appreciate the feeling. Inevitably, it would be said, “an ungrateful youngster who doesn’t realize how good he has it.” The grief and sudden shock, especially for children, is unfathomable.
War is brutal at best, savage at worst. Its perception is far different from the reality. Perception is more of an intellectual understanding. The reality is its surreal nature – violence and tenderness, side-by-side. The emotions can range from unbridled rawness to the humorous.
This Memorial Day, do not remember the fallen because of heroism, sacrifice or duty. Remember them as ordinary men and women, each with their own story and dreams. They are who made America. They are America.
May God bless them. May God bless America.
National Moment of Remembrance –
To remember and honor those who have fallen in service to the nation, the National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to observe one minute of silence at 3:00 pm local time.
About the photos –
These photos were taken at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery near San Diego in June 2014 and June 2016.