Photo by Bert Hoferichter
Washington DC’s Arlington Cemetery is where a nation mourns its military dead. Set up after the Civil War, it now holds some some 300,000 graves and memorials.
With up to 30 burials a day, I am not long in Arlington before I see a flag-covered caisson trundling past with a uniformed escort. It brings respectful silence and doffed hats from visitors, with the quiet of the cemetery later broken by the echoing crack of a rifle salute.
The Old Guard who provide these funeral details also conducts the mesmerizing Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns. They do their duty no matter the weather and their steel-shod boots have worn a track in the marble.
Afterwards, I visit the Iwo Jima Memorial that recreates one of the most famous photographs in history. Many times larger than life, it is a powerful and moving sight, with Old Glory fluttering from the flagpole the Marines are eternally raising.
I ask a National Park Service Ranger here what she thinks about it after all her hours on duty and she says simply: “Their sacrifice. I am not sure our generation could answer the call in the way they did and I glad we do not have to.
“They left their homes and families, experienced things we can never imagine, then quietly went back to the life they had left behind. Most never even spoke of the horror again.”
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