Friday, May 28, 2010

"Arlington"

[Guest post by The Captain.]

Gray mornings seem to fit when you're walking alongside the fence at Arlington National Cemetery. Rows of identical, small grave markers, occasionally interrupted by an over-sized one. Which looks almost gaudy, if you such a thing can be believed; it certainly seems a bit out of place, that a family or bereaved spouse spent money for a different, and almost certainly larger, monument to their fallen one.

The remnants of last night's rain make the grass glisten, as well as clean the dust and pollen off the markers, which helps them look as smart as possible. The tiny American flags only recently placed at the foot of each marker level the playing field. I think so anyhow. A big black marble monument still gets a diminutive flag to mark Memorial Day, 2010. The large monuments dwarf their flags, and for a moment I thought the bigger markers seemed humbled by that flag, reminded that their death was in the name of that same flag posted thousands of times over across the grassy hills. Money spent on shiny marble didn't matter when those lives were lost, and it doesn't matter as the years pass quietly at Arlington.

There is a fuss taking place that the President wasn't going to participate in this year's Memorial Day observance. I don't think very highly of this President's politics, but I don't think that he should be damned for that decision. If you don't want to come, please don't, Mister President. If it's not truly significant to you to remember those who died, the ones buried at Arlington and those who aren't, go elsewhere this weekend. False sincerity is a hallmark of politics, and you are certainly a politician. False sincerity doesn't pass muster at Arlington National Cemetery. Not ever, and certainly not on Memorial Day. Take that false sincerity elsewhere; someone else might truly appreciate it. At this place, at this time, the tranquil, somber, sacred home of the remains of so many who died to make it possible for you to dance and spin your way through each day you serve as President of the United States does not need you here. I think they understand it if you are elsewhere, and they may even appreciate your absence in their unspeakable thoughts and prayers.

Arlington is the home of the fortunate, fallen few. Among the presidents, judges, explorers, and yes, politicians, along with the military personnel, now numbering in total over 300,000. But the physical remains of so many who have served their country honorably, and paid that ultimate price, do not rest here. Their families don't have the ability to visit the individual memorial to their hero. They may not have the comfort in knowing what happened to their missing one; they may not know where those remains rest, or perhaps only rested for a while. A memorial isn't much...but it can be something. The few who rest here offer the potential for a visit, for remembering what was and could have been, and for a way to honor those memories. At times, those things can mean very much to a person who feels grateful, or proud, or lonely. More than a name on a monument, or in a ledger, or the treasured memories in a photograph or letter. Especially for the few who recall that Memorial Day is more than a reason to sleep in, go to the beach, cook on a grill, shop, or drink too much. Especially for the few who look forward to paying their respects and showing their appreciation to their fallen one.

The lyrics, and the video, for a favorite country song say a great deal about those who have fallen, and a great deal to those who love them. If you've already decided that country songs are crap, I bid you farewell now. For anyone still reading, please ponder the lyrics to Arlington, and check out the video if you're so inclined.

I never thought that this is where I'd settle down; I thought I'd die an old man back in my hometown.
They gave me this plot of land, me and some other men, for a job well done.
There's a big white house sits on a hill just up the road; the man inside, he cried the day they brought me home.
They folded up a flag, and told my mom and dad, "We're proud of your son."

And I'm proud to be on this peaceful piece of property; I'm on sacred ground and I'm in the best of company.
I'm thankful for those thankful for the things I've done; I can rest in peace, I'm one of the chosen ones...
I made it to Arlington.

I remember daddy brought me here when I was eight; we searched all day to find out where my granddad lay.
And when we finally found that cross, he said, "Son this is what it cost, to keep us free."
Now here I am a thousand stones away from him; he recognized me on the first day I came in.
And it gave me a chill, when he clicked his heels, and saluted me.

And I'm proud to be on this peaceful piece of property; I'm on sacred ground and I'm in the best of company.
I'm thankful for those thankful for the things I've done; I can rest in peace, I'm one of the chosen ones...
I made it to Arlington.

And every time I hear, twenty-one guns, I know they brought another hero home, to us.

We're thankful for those thankful for the things we've done; we can rest in peace, 'cause we were the chosen ones.
We made it to Arlington.
Yeah, dust to dust; don't cry for us.
We made it to Arlington.
Still proud to have served; still grateful for those who have gone on ahead of me. Remember to remember Memorial Day. And God bless the United States of America.