The first time Lucy and I visited D.C. was in 2005 on Memorial Day weekend.
We reached D.C. at 4pm and walked for hours. We finally gave up bit over midnight and decided to head back to the hotel.
On Saturday we woke up as early trying to do as much as our short visit would allow us.
I wanted to go visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was a priority for me because while in Army basic training one of my Drill Sergeants had been a Sentinel (3rd US Infantry Regiment) a small group of soldiers (less than 550) that since 1937 have guarded the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier 24/7.
While walking we noticed the sound of thousands of Bikes or better said”Rolling Thunder“.
Rolling Thunder is made up of people who travel from all over the globe to D.C. to honor the fallen by riding there bikes. I was impressed by the logistics on how all of these bikers where coordinating their entrance into Arlington Cemetery.
We arrived into the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier when Rolling Thuder was having a ceremony laying down flowers in memory of the fallen. I was also very impressed with the Sentinel’s precision while patrolling the tomb.
One of our next stops was area where they had artists making representations of the fallen service members from Iraq and Afghanistan. I would have never guessed the emotions that would take over me that afternoon. As I walked over to commemorate those fallen soldiers by observing the art and getting to know more about them I realize how much in common I had with many of them.
I had just turned 25, almost 8 years after enlisting in the Army at the age of 17. I was lucky enough that I enlisted and my contract ended just when the Iraq and Afghanistan war needed more personnel.
When I look at the average age of the fallen they where mostly younger than me. I finally broke down into tears when I approached an area where I identified images of servicemen from Puerto Rico. Someone had been nice enough to place a flag over each picture. It really shocked me that an island of approximately 4 million people with limited rights as citizens had a higher proportion of flags than any other territory.
Looking into a few more pictures, I realized I had known one of the reservists who died in combat. I could not contain myself and it took me quite some time to stop crying (I confess that as I am writing just the memory of that moment made me drop a tear or two).
It could have been Me
I had never lost control of myself by crying in a public place as an adult in front of strangers (who where mostly sharing the same emotions as I was). There I was having a blast that weekend and enjoying my time, learning about history, eating well, drinking, and I realize that I could have been any of those service members who an artist painted in memory of them.
Out of gratitude from that moment on I make sure that every Memorial Day I do something for a service member or their families. I make it a purpose by commemorating the fallen.
Make it your Priority Too
So while you have your BBQ’s think of a few things you can do for those veterans that are still around us.
Here are a 3 quick and easy suggestions:
- Donate to the Fisher House an organization helping military families in many ways.
- Donate to Invisible People my Friend Mark Hovarth does a great job creating awareness of veterans who are homeless. Look at Jimmy’s and Paul’s Story.
- Donate Your Airline Miles.
- More info here http://fisherhouse.org/programs/hero-miles.
Most Importantly make some time to learn about those who made the ultimate sacrifice.