Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Changing of the Guard ~ The Final Walk

The Final Walk of the Sergeant of the Guard
at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Sgt. 1st Class Alfred Lanier, Sergeant of the Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,
lays a rose at the Tomb in remembrance of his final walk on June 25.
Sentinels lay roses signifying leaving the Tomb,
and the love they have for the job and the Unknown

Thank you for your service.

Hat Tip to MD Conservative for sharing this story ---

Monday, June 14, 2010

June 14 ~ Flag Day

Flag Day ~ June 14

O'er the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave

Fort McHenry
The sight that inspired Francis Scott Key
to write the poem
The Star-Spangled Banner

Iwo Jima - Marine Memorial

The Flag at Arlington House
Arlington National Cemetery

The Flag at the National Archives

The 50 Flags of the States
Washinton Monument

Fredricksburg National Cemetery

The Flag at the Stonewall Jackson Shrine
The site where he died.

Flag at Petersen Gardens in Oregon
Mr. Petersen scoured the desert for rocks and glass and built some incredible stuctures from them. This flag has 48 stars.

World War II Memorial

Flag at Fort Meade Parade Grounds

Flag at Vietnam War Memorial
Pueblo, Colorado

Flag at the Painted Hills
John Day National Monument

Flag at Home
Summer and Winter

Photos from my personal collection and travels

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Arlington National Cemetery ~ Chaos and Sorrow

For anyone who has ever been to Arlington National Cemetery, there is a majesty and a sense of walking through legend that you can not capture with a camera.

Most people hop the bus, ride to the 'key points', reflect a bit on those neat guys at the Tomb of the Unknowns, the big house on the hill - the Lee House, and the eternal flame on the Kennedy shrine. A few of us actually walk the roads. We see areas of the Cemetery that are rarely seen. We see the numerous plaques and monuments that are constructed through out the Cemetery - like this POW plaque - that commemorate so many aspects of our history.

We start to feel the numbers of graves... the numbers of men and women who have served our country honorably. And, it doesn't take long before you realize that most who are buried here lived long and productive lives. Those who have fallen in battle are a smaller number, but a number that strikes your heart with profound sorrow and pride, and, for this American, deep gratitude. Wisely, they are buried together.

The last time I was there, they pointed out the section that held the fallen from Vietnam. That was new - the mentioning that is. As the years have faded the remembrances of Vietnam, we can now speak of it. I never stopped thinking about or remembering Vietnam and I knew where the section was. It is a section that I visit each time I go there, for I have someone there. I have been the weepy person standing there.

Now it has been discovered that Arlington National Cemetery has been stricken with shame caused by careless errors. A shame that occurs at every cemetery - whether it is military, public or private. It is caused by carelessness, illiteracy and an attitude of disdain towards both the living and the dead. It happens all of the time and it happens everywhere. It should NEVER happen anywhere. But, it does. The worst part is, short of disinterring each casket and testing the DNA, when do you call it resolved? For cremains, there is no testing. The only path to resolution is to trust those who have proven themselves unworthy.

While Arlington was burying people in the wrong places and tossing urns of cremains into the fill dirt, people were trusting that care was being given to each casket and urn. Lovely people were comforting the family and securing the trust. I believe that they were as naive as the rest of us. I believe that nothing nefarious was going on behind the scenes. I believe that lax attitudes create chaos and it merged into the perfect storm in Arlington.

Arlington National Cemetery is not the largest of our military cemeteries, but it is the best known. It is the shining star. It is the home of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers and the Old Guard - what can be more honorable that that? It is the place we think of when a military burial occurs. It is a place we all believed in.

I have been subjected to a 'misplaced' burial and a 'misplaced' headstone of a family member. To this day, I have no way of knowing if it was correctly resolved --- I had to trust the untrustworthy. As families are worrying and calling to get an answer, knowing that each call brings yet another answer, often conflicting with the last, the pain that sets in is overwhelming. I felt it again, all these years later, just reading about this. My thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends who are trying so hard to find resolution. I pray that they get the resolution they are entitled to.

For the people who are annoyed that I pointed out that it happens everywhere - the day you think that a fallen soldier or old vet is ranked by which cemetery he is buried in, we have truly lost our ethos - our fundamental values and concerns for one another. You can find military headstones in every cemetery in this country and in many foreign countries. I will never try to judge the young widow standing over a grave in Spokane or a mother standing over a grave in Idaho as being less in pain than those standing in Arlington. I am grateful to each of them - those who fell while serving and those who lived a long life after serving - where ever they are buried.

My concern is that we consistently bury them with the honor they deserve.