Remembering the veterans at Arlington National Cemetery

I Learned The Ideal Of Remembrance At Arlington National Cemetery

Acknowledging and remembering the sacrifice of our troops is a worth while endeavor.


The clanking metro train came to a halt. "Now arriving at Arlington National Cemetery," the prerecorded voice announced over the intercom. As my family and I exited the train, a sweeping, cold wind rushed across our faces, a usual welcome from all the underground stations in D.C. I looked at the ceiling of the station curving to meet the dark grey walls. One moment, I was viewing beautiful Greek architecture at the national mall; the next, I was in an enclosing chasm of ugly stone. The sound of the screeching track blared in my ears.

The exit to the surface level was a huge escalator that climbed to the top for air. When we reached the top, I braced myself for the thoughts and emotions that were about to swim inside me. I had never been to Arlington before that day. The names and faces of family and friends who were in the military rested in my mind—not many years older than my age of 17 when they enlisted. I was ready to recognize their sacrifice through this place.

After sauntering through security, we walked through the welcome center and headed for the cemetery. It wasn't too long until we reached the rows upon rows of gravestones, each marking the courage and bravery of that person. As we trudged up a slight hill, I read the names of the gravestones.

When we hear about how many people died in a war, we only think about the number, and hardly about the individual lives of each person. When I read the names, it would sometimes say that they were a father and husband, what branch of the military they were part of, and the year they were born and the year they passed. This information, even if it seems so little, individualizes the men buried there. Every human is an individual. I thought of my aunt's dad who fought in the Korean War and my great grandfather who was a glider pilot for the Royal Air Force during WW2. The people buried here had a life and family like my relatives.

Signs were strewn across path reading, "Please be quiet. Show respect."And everyone was quiet. In fact, it was the quietest place in D.C. Everything was still. The trees slowly swayed in the wind like they too were turning to view the graves. The only thing I could hear were respectful whispers and singing birds.

I spotted a sign pointing to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The path was downhill with uneven steps. The trees cast shadows over the trail and graves, giving shade to the fallen heroes and their visitors. As we descended, a large group of people walked in front of us, but all we could hear were the footsteps upon the stone. The silence was carried everywhere we went.

This silence left room in my mind for my great grandfather. What was going through his mind in the early morning hours of D-day? Was everyone silent just like this place when they boarded the glider plane? As I looked at the gravestones, I thought of his burial site in France where his glider crashed that day so long ago. His sacrifice weighed heavy on my mind.

When we finally reached the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, we searched for a place to sit so we could watch the changing of the guard. We joined a crowd of solemn people sitting on the steps facing the tomb and the focused guard. Just over the trees and across the Potomac River, I could see the Washington Monument and the Capitol building. The afternoon sun animated the structures.

At that moment, the next guard and a sergeant walked out with their posture straight up. Everyone sitting rose up in unison. The sergeant ordered us to remain quiet and show respect during the ceremony.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, what you are about to witness is the changing of the guard to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier," he began triumphantly. After his brief speech, he walked over to the two guards and started the change. Multiple orders later, the new guard took his place and carried the symbolism and responsibility every previous guard held.

These guards deeply understood their role better than any of us in the audience. Brown stains on the stone displayed where and how long these men had guarded the tomb. The tomb of a man that was alive before them, of a man that they didn't personally know, and of a man of whom no one knows the name or story. But the man in that tomb sacrificed everything for the values of freedom and liberty.

Sitting there watching the ceremony, I realized that the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier represents every unknown soldier buried somewhere. That even though we don't know the identity of the soldier, he still deserves the praise and respect the identified soldiers get. Giving this one unknown soldier a sacred tomb honors and individualizes people we can't identify who were killed or missing in action. That is why the tomb is guarded 24/7 through hurricanes and blizzards— to honor every man who laid down their lives for the freedom of others.

Continuing back to the welcome center, I heard those respectful whispers once again. The thought of my family members who served came back to me. What stories did they have about their time in the military? My aunt recently took her father to the Korean War Memorial. I imagined his reaction when seeing it, the memories flying through his head.

We went back down the tall escalator to get to our metro train. As we waited for a few minutes, the dirty stone, the loud sounds, and the uneasy smells of the metro station didn't cross my mind. All I could think about were the thousands of men and women's selfless actions for the principles of freedom and liberty and my family members' sacrifice for those principles.

If there is one word to describe Arlington National Cemetery, it is sobering. We should sacrifice the time to visit these graves because they sacrificed their lives so we can have that time.

Popular Right Now

Dear Veterans, I'm So Thankful For What You've Done For My Country

I will never be able to express my full gratitude to you.


Dear U.S. Veterans,

It's hard to express just how thankful I am for what you've done for not only my country but for me as well. The lengths you have gone to protect our nation and its people is something that I couldn't even imagine being able to do.

Without you, I wouldn't be where I am today. You don't run away from fear and you fight for what you believe in. We owe our freedom, our rights, and our lives to you. Thank you for being willing to put down your life for our country.

You've served others, no matter the cost. Our nation can never repay you for what you've done for us. We are the land of the free because of the bravery instilled in each and every one of you. You are the heart and soul of our country, and I pray every day that you find peace in life after serving our nation.

Thank you for all the sacrifices you've made and for putting our country first. Thank you for leaving behind friends and family to join the fight to preserve our nation. Thank you for never, ever letting us down, and for the protection you give us each and every day. I will never be able to repay you for the extraordinary life you've given me.

Though we may not know your names, we thank you all the same. You're the backbone of our country and the reason why we are alive and free. I will never be able to express my full gratitude to you, so all I can say is how proud I am to have you protecting my country and its people.

To all the men and women who have served or are currently serving our country, I thank you with all my heart. You are the heroes of our beautiful nation. Happy Veterans Day.

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

37 War Movies You Should Watch This Memorial Day

War movies are a great way to relive history or celebrate our armed forces.


I'm a war movie buff. I've seen most if not all the movies on this list ranging from old classics to modern box office hits. Some of these are hilarious and some are very serious and possibly disturbing. For this list, only true American Movies were picked because this Holiday is about remembering American Soldiers and Veterans.

1. Black Hawk Down

2. American Sniper

3. Kelly’s Heroes

4. Thin Red Line

5. Lone Survivor 

6. Fury

7. Casualties of War

8. Courage Under Fire

9. Catch 22

10. The Longest Day

11. Born on the Fourth of July

12. Good Morning, Vietnam

13. Platoon

14. The Dirty Dozen

15. Twelve O’clock High

16. Saving Private Ryan

17. The Messenger

18. The Deer Hunter

19. Top Gun

20. Full Metal Jacket

21. Zero Dark Thirty

22. Saints and Soldiers

23. Thank You For Your Service

24. A Few Good Men

25. Hurt Locker

26. We Were Soldiers

27. Men Of Honor

28. Tora!Tora!Tora!

29. Heartbreak Ridge

30. Sand Castle

31. Apocalypse Now

32. Flags of Our Fathers

33. Pearl Harbor

34. Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Crees

35. JarHead

36. Taking Chance

37. Platoon

Bonus TV Miniseries 1. Band of Brothers

Bonus TV Miniseries 2. The Pacific

Bonus TV Miniseries 3. Generation Kill

Have a Happy Memorial Day with friends and family and eat a burger for me and enjoy the good times and reflect on why this holiday is and maybe enjoy a movie or two or a few.

Related Content

Facebook Comments