We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.
The cicadas were everywhere. They were loud with their mating noises, drowning out our conversations, causing us to lean into each other to talk. It was a constant din, ringing in our ears. The cicadas that weren’t chirping, were on the pathway dead, making other noises as they crunched under our feet. It was of course hot and muggy, we were in a somber, quiet mood. Hearing the sounds of horse hooves on the cobblestone we looked up to see a funeral carriage making it’s way through the cemetery, it’s destination unknown to us. We paused in respect, knowing that the same carriage would most likely be carrying the body of a dead president in the next few days.
We had been the last tour group to go through the Capitol building on June 5th 2004. We listened carefully as we learned about past dignitaries and Presidents to lie in state in the Rotunda upon their deaths and learning the difference of lying in honor, a tradition set aside for people of distinction, who were not politicians. Most recently this was an honor for Rosa Parks, the mother of the civil rights. It was a fascinating tour, answering a lot of questions and creating a sense of pride in our country.
That same afternoon we arrived back at our hotel, not far from the DuPont Circle, to learn that former President Regan had died. We knew things were going to change drastically in Washington DC within the next few days, but we weren’t exactly sure how. It was interesting to be in the place where much of our country’s life thread is challenged, settled or started. And to be the last public group to be in the Rotunda prior to President Regan’s funeral tied us to this event, if only in our own thoughts. Therefore, when we found ourselves at Arlington National Cemetery the next day, we did pause as we watch the Caisson travel past us, accompanied with the riderless horse. We were on the fringe of an important event, and we could feel the history rise up to meet us.
As we crunched our way over the cicadas, we found a path to the Tomb of the Unknowns. Surprising to us, was how few people were at the Tomb of the Unknowns on this day. Also surprising, was we were just in time to watch the presentation of a wreath and for the changing of the guard. I was again surprised to be so overwhelmed with a myriad of emotions. I stood in awe of so many things. The precision of the guards themselves, the quiet of the crowd and the now noiseless cicadas, created a somber moving tearful memory that I cherish. Having not served in the military myself I can only witness the guard with pride of their duty and dedication If you haven’t see the changing of the guard, please take the time to view this video. With this I salute our fallen Veteran’s today, on this our Memorial Day.