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Last summer, we piled the kids in the car and went on a normal-for-us trek across the globe, landing in historic Washington, D.C. If you've never been, it's a wonderful trip. The entire Smithsonian is free. Monuments. Science Museums. History museums. Arlington Cemetary. The Zoo. It's all amazingly, wondrously available with no entry charges.
One of our must-do's on the trip was Arlington National Cemetery, to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. On the day we visited, rain was coming down in buckets (as some of my friends in the south say, it come up a flood!) and we were soaked to the core and laughing at the insane amount of water falling from the sky in such a short time.
Puddle by puddle, we found our way over to the Tomb that is guarded 24/7 by the United States Army's Honor Guard (3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment - The Old Guard).
We watched as the Guard took each numbered step to the edge of the plaza in that same downpour we were standing in, turned, moved his rifle to the opposite shoulder, and repeated to the other edge of the plaza. At one point he stopped and addressed disrepectful onlookers, bringing their chatter to an abrupt halt.
To the Guardsman, guarding the tomb is an honor. You see, it's not just one person's tomb that he's guarding. The Unknown Soldier interred within the tomb is a World War I service member, whose name is known only to God. The three tombs in front represent World War II, Vietnam, and Korea service members. But it's not just those four either.
The Tombs were erected in an act of honor and celebration. In the US, a young person can join the military at the age of 18. Our babies, y'all. Our babies see the freedoms that we have and the rights this country has fought to keep, and they choose to enlist in a branch of the armed services so that we, the unenlisted, can keep those freedoms.
In an instant, I am proud for them and scared for them and thankful for them and proud for them again. Because as long as service men and service women continue to enlist to protect our freedoms, we stand a chance at keeping them. They leave homes and families and girlfriends and wives and husbands and moms, and sacrifice the simple joys of everyday to defend us.
They sacrifice first steps and first teeth and Christmas decor and high school graduations and Girl Scout Cookie time for us. Sometimes, they give all they have. And that's what Memorial Day remembers. Those who made the ULTIMATE sacrifice, dying while in service to protect our freedoms.
That's who the four tombs represent. That's what the Guardsman guards as he marches silently. Perfectly. Not just one soldier. Not four soldiers. But EACH ONE that has made the ultimate sacrifice for us and for our freedom.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was established in 1921. The Unknown Soldiers laid to rest at the Tomb represent all missing and unknown service members who made the ultimate sacrifice - they not only gave their lives but also their identities to protect these freedoms.
This Memorial Day, as some celebrate the official-start-of-summer, others are remembering those they miss, those they love, how the sacrifice their loved ones gave will leave their family photos different this year, and still others are waiting patiently until their service member comes home safe.
We remember you and thank you, for giving a sacrifice that none of could ever repay.
With love and thanks,
P.S. Lots of families have loved ones who serve currently - loved ones who need desperately to hear that they aren't forgotten as life goes on at home without them. You can thank them - even if you don't know them personally - and spread a little SHINE to the far corners of the world.
action.USO.org/moments is a site you can use to spread a little SHINE to a service member currently serving.
And tombguard.org/tomb-guards is where you can learn about every Guardsman that has ever served at the Tomb.