Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery

25 May

This weekend, we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate Memorial Day than visiting Arlington National Cemetery.

Arlington National Cemetery - spifftacular.wordpress.com

(The obelisk in the center is a headstone, not the Washington Monument. In the background is the Jefferson Memorial.)

I had tried to visit once before when my parents were in town, but we got there after it was closed. I only wish my mom could have joined us this time, because she would have taken much better pictures than I ever could, plus she loves cemeteries. (She sees them as spiritual places and likes the family history aspect, and thinks it’s interesting to wonder what the lives of the people buried there were like. She even did a cool photography project on cemeteries for a college class, and has taken other photos of them.)

Long before I moved to the D.C. area, I was drawn to the imagery of the Arlington National Cemetery. The impeccably aligned gravestones leading to various vanishing points on the horizon–something about it just looks surreal, like an optical illusion.
Arlington National Cemetery - spifftacular.wordpress.com
According to the cemetery’s website there are more than 400,000 active-duty service members, veterans, and their families buried at Arlington, but surveying those hills so densely planted with gravestones, it seems numberless, reflecting the vast sacrifice these people–as individuals and as a whole–have made for our country and the greater good. Arlington National Cemetery - spifftacular.wordpress.comA few things that wandered into my mind:

  • Reading All Quiet on the Western Front in high school and first encountering the idea of the senselessness of war.
  • Reading, more recently, The Book Thief and being struck by this quote, a “small but noteworthy note” by the narrator, Death: “I’ve seen so many young men over the years who think they’re running at other young men. They are not. They are running at me.”
  • Hearing a snippet from Prairie Home Companion we heard on the drive home, with Garrison Keillor expressing gratitude for the young people who give of their time and their lives so that we folks back home can live “dreamy lives”–and we really do have mundanely luxurious and luxuriously mundane lives.
  • Watching Monuments Men this weekend, which asked an important question: Is a piece of art worth a life? The answer comes in the same pleasantly preachy style as Good Night and Good Luck (a personal favorite).

Arlington National Cemetery - spifftacular.wordpress.comWe chatted with a veteran and a serviceman and his family while we were there, and thanked them for their service, but a simple thank-you seems so paltry. But I know I at least need to be doing that, so it was a good reminder to write to our servicemen and women more often.

Arlington National Cemetery - spifftacular.wordpress.com

Memorial Amphitheater by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

On the less contemplative side, Lars had a chance to test out his new walking skills (with Daddy’s help, of course). Mostly he was thrilled to have  break from the stroller. IMG_2346-edit IMG_2364-editI’m grateful we could live close enough to enjoy this fitting memorial, and grateful for the offering of those it honors.

Happy Memorial Day!

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