My father spent his adult life serving in the military, but he'd never been to our nation's capital. So Erin and I met him and my mom in DC. Not only is DC full of history, it seems like anyone that's served--as both my dad and Erin's dad did--they should visit the highest rank in the chain of command.
|My father at the WWII Memorial|
|Deek and Erin next to the Arlington sign.|
|Deek and his dad|
|Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.|
If you never seen one, the Changing of Guard is a meaningful and honorable ceremony, rich in tradition. Those who apply to be guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, are made part of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment and, must not only have an exemplary record, but must adhere to a strict regimen.
Take the time to watch this video of the changing. The dedication of these men and women is simply amazing, and the ceremony itself is beautiful and precise.
Each element of tomb guarding--from the 21 footsteps (symbolizing the 21 Gun Salute) between mats, to him or her placing the rifle on the shoulder closest to the audience (meaning they stand between the audience and the soldier)--has meaning.
Within Arlington we also visited the grave of JFK. It's difficult to see because it was sunny out when I took the picture, but JFK's flame--known as the Eternal Flame--never goes out.
|JFK's Eternal Flame|
It's difficult to comprehend from a few pictures, but there are acres and acres of tombstones. Gazing out across the vast fields, my heart ached with gratitude as I thought of the hundreds of thousands of soldiers that sacrificed everything to protect our country. They believed so strongly in our nation that they paid the ultimate price to preserve our way of life.
|Vast fields of tombstones|
|So many people. So many sacrifices.|
The tombstones go on and on. It's simply breathtaking and beyond words.
The Memorial Stone outside of the WWII Memorial reads:
HERE IN THE PRESENCE OF WASHINGTON AND LINCOLN,
ONE THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY FATHER AND THE OTHER THE
NINETEENTH CENTURY PRESERVER OF OUR NATION, WE HONOR
THOSE TWENTIETH CENTURY AMERICANS WHO TOOK UP THE STRUGGLE
DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR AND MADE THE SACRIFICES TO
PERPETUATE THE GIFT OUR FOREFATHERS ENTRUSTED TO US:
A NATION CONCEIVED IN LIBERTY AND JUSTICE.
While WWII and Vietnam happened long before my time, 9/11 is still as fresh in my mind and heart as if it had happened yesterday. Erin and I have talked about how we always, ALWAYS, look up when we hear a jet flying low over the city.
9/11 is most poignantly associated with the destruction of the twin towers in New York, but a lot of brave men, women, and children lost their lives at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.
|Memorial to those brave souls who lost their lives on Flight 94 in Pennsylvania.|
|Deek and Erin in front of the Pentagon where the plane struck|
|Here's what this side of the Pentagon looked like on 9/11|
|New face of the Pentagon|
|Pentagon Memorial Benches|
The 184 lives lost at the Pentagon are represented by "Memorial Unit" benches. Each bench includes the person's name and their date of birth. The direction of the bench indicates if the person was on the plane or in the building.
Here We Mark the Price of Freedom
|Freedom Wall in Washington DC|
There are 4048 stars on this wall.
So many have sacrificed so much.
I'm grateful beyond words to our soldiers who have and are still keeping our country safe. While there's no way to repay your generosity, we can say thank you. Thank you for dedicating your lives to freedom. Thank you for fighting for the United States.