26 May 2008

Paying Respects At Arlington's 'Section 60'

I have never visited Arlington Cemetary outside Washington D.C. Not yet.

From my education, I know it is the most sacred ground in the United States when it comes to burying our war dead, and honored veterans. From my real estate knowledge, I know it is the site of our nation's first-ever eminent domain proceeding (it was the farm of Robert E. Lee, which was seized without compensation by the federal government and used as a burial ground for Union soldiers, and to send a message). From any measure, though there are other national cemeteries, Arlington is the focal point of all.

I was to visit our nation's capitol next month as a chaperone with a school group. Unfortunately, due to a number of circumstances, my trip to DC will have to wait until another time.

On this Memorial Day, today, it is important to remember the blood that has been spilled to forge this nation, to keep our citizens free, and to free other peoples around the world from the yoke of oppression and tyranny. To help those who cannot help themselves . . .

I found this story, regarding Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery. There, many of America's most recent war dead are forever laid to rest.

"It's a hard place to be -- very emotional," said Jerry Fowler of Los Altos, Calif., while visiting the grave of her nephew, Army Sgt. Dale Brehm. He died in Iraq two years ago. "All these people who lost their lives," Fowler said, "and we just walk by like it's nothing. They meant something.

"When you walk down these rows," she added, "you learn to respect every single person in this row, not just the person you came to see -- every one."

I couldn't have said it better myself. That was the feeling I had while I flagged veterans' graves Saturday at Greenlawn Cemetery here in Columbus. We had a job to do, an honor to bestow . . . the duty to make sure that no one was forgotten this weekend. You had to move fast to cover a lot of ground. And yet, I was compelled (as should be) to stop and read each of the stones. And ponder that young man or young women's life. Their age. What they might have been feeling when they were 23.

I was asked Saturday what I was doing when I was 23. My reply, "I was being stupid." Not overall, mind you, but in comparison to what many of these kids faced -- and face today -- in harm's way, in defense of our way of life. I thought back to my own father, patching up broken soldiers' bodies on jungle islands in the Pacific during World War 2. At that age, he was dodging bullets. At that age, I was chasing the next thrill.

"I wish that everyone in their lifetime could come here at least once," said David Christoff of Rossford, Ohio, as he stood where his son is buried."

I know Rossford. It is a beautiful little town near Toledo, and I have a cousin who has a home there. Mr. Christoff's statement about wishing everyone in their lifetime could come to Arlington at least once resonates with me.

There are many reasons to visit Washington D.C. The architecture, government history, the museums, love of politics, etc.

At the top of my list will always be Arlington National Cemetery.

One day, soon, I will get there.


Anonymous said...

I litterally just pulled into Columbus from DC about 2 hours ago - taking our Brazilian exchange student, and our own three - ages 10, 8, and 4.

It was special...

Brent Greer said...

A- Thanks for writing, and thank you so very much for sharing.