Tag Archives: Arlington

and a happy time was had by all

Um, then again, maybe not.

So, I really liked traveling by train. Talk about leg room! I’ve flown 1st class exactly once in my life, and that was only because a bunch of us missed our connections in Miami coming home from Santo Domingo a few years back and Wubby and I were lucky enough to catch the last 2 seats to DC, 1st class. From there, it was the back row of a Dash-80 to Raleigh. “The last shall be first, and the first shall be last.” Or something like that. Did you know that you can see the PILOT from the back row of a Dash-80? You do now, don’t you?

So anyway, train was fun. Rest of trip, not so much.

I’ve helped plan a lot of trips to places for teens in my career as a professional chaperone, and let me tell you, this thing might have planned well, but it was executed poorly. First and foremost, the heat index was 120. 120!!!! People, this is dangerous, hello, get a clue! Day 1 was spent at Arlington National Cemetery, followed by a play at the Kennedy Center (that I skipped because I couldn’t walk or breathe.) Day 2 was spent touring government buildings (Capital, Supreme Court, Library of Congress), Smithsonian American Indian and Air and Space, National Archives, then a night “tour” of the monuments. The info we got from the trip coordinator said “tourmobile”. There was no tourmobile, it was a WALKING night tour. I spent this day in the National Gallery of Art (the Impressionism exhibit in the West wing is being renovated, FYI), the American Indian Museum and the Archives. Then daughter and I bugged out of the night tour and high-tailed it back to the hotel before I croaked, literally.

Day 3: I got late check-out, then enjoyed the lobby and lounge at the hotel while students went to Holocaust Museum, American History (where they saw the 1st ladies dresses and NOTHING else), and Natural History (where they saw the Hope diamond and NOTHING else). Then back to the hotel, catch the train and come home.

Long story short: that was $800 that could have done so much more. Lesson learned (as if I didn’t already know this one): take your kid to DC yourself, as we’ve already done twice and will probably do again unless the country goes completely to hell in a hand-basket next Tuesday. And for heaven’s sake, have a plan B for things like insanely hot weather, hurricanes, floods, blizzards, etc.

We got back to the train station Sunday morning at 12:39 AM exactly on time, back home by 1:30, and slept for 18 hours straight. Sad, but true. Now it’s almost a week later, and I’m just about back to 1 week post-surgery, where I was 2 weeks ago. I miss my brain.

Arlington always overwhelms me, and this time was no exception. Everyone always stands at JFK’s gravesite and talks about where they were, etc. I was not quite 3 years old then; I don’t have a clue where I was or what I was doing. RFK’s assassination is what I remember. We acted it out at after-school care every day for weeks, everyone wanted to be the first one to play charades so they could stand up then fall down.

We watched the changing of the guard at the Unknowns, always sobering, all of us standing quietly, sweating bullets, while these men repeat the drama every 30 minutes, completely without emotion, so precise, so dedicated to what they do. Then we headed behind the amphitheater to the mast of the Maine, but I stopped, couldn’t cross the street. Just sat on the curb and cried. Partly because I was so hot, partly because of what I’d just seen, and partly because of what was in front of me on the other side of the street. Something that really isn’t that emotional, but….it was the memorial to the Challenger Flight Crew. THAT is a day I will never forget. I was working at my first programming job, went to lunch w/ my parents since both of them worked nearby, and we went to a stained glass supply store so my dad could buy some glass. He was an artist with glass. They dropped me off back at work, I walked in and heard about Challenger, and we all just sort of sat there and stared at each other.

I walked across the street and up to the Challenger memorial, along side the Columbia memorial, and a memorial to the service men killed in 1980 in the failed attempt to rescue the hostages in Iraq.

Later that night, while the students were at the Kennedy Center, I scribbled something down about Arlington, which is already posted.

Here’s the last thing I saw as we were leaving the┬áCemetery:

Seemed appropriate, a male Cardinal…the color of blood.

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Summer Roses (for LKB)

(I realize this is not a comprehensive analysis of our country’s involvement in world conflict. It’s not supposed to be. If you’re here to beat me over the head for my ignorance of the current state of nation, please be nice. I already have a headache. Thanks muchly.)

The sweet smell of summer roses permeates the air surrounding the ranks of soldiers, none of whom are now able to appreciate the fragrance.

The silence, overwhelmingly loud, throbbing inside my head, merges with the cannon salute to another soldier being laid to rest on sacred ground, finally finding peace after finishing his last mission–perhaps last week, or last year, or sometime during the last century.

The history of a young nation, spread out across rolling hills dotted with shade trees; soldiers assembled for battle, their plain white crosses marking their graves in perfect alignment from any vantage point.

The timeline of the wars that, in one way or another, define us as a nation, represented in this place….

The American Civil War: brothers fighting brothers, fathers fighting sons, great military minds who were educated in military tactics together as young men, friends who became enemies, only to come back together after the conflict ended, again showing respect to each other as equals.

The Spanish-American War: Teddy Roosevelt, the charge up San Juan hill, the creation of another new nation, the Phillipines.

World War I: the war to end all wars.

World War II: the result of a nation’s flawed trust in a megalomaniac, the war of unspeakable acts of evil perpetrated against an enemy whose only offense was their race, or their physical conditions, the creation of an ultimate weapon, and the subsequent Cold War that ensued as enemies began to stockpile enough weapons to destroy all life on Earth many times over.

The Korean War

The Vietnam War: the nightly body count read on the CBS evening news by Walter Cronkite, and the fear that my uncle or one of his friends could be called up for duty, based on a random number assignment.

Operation Desert Storm

Operation Enduring Freedom: punishment meted out on an enemy who dared attack us on our own soil, the creation of yet one more day seared into the collective mindset of the American people. Where were you on 9/11?

Operation Iraqi Freedom: the removal of a brutal dictator, another megalomaniac who slaughtered hundreds of thousands of his own citizens.

Do you remember “Shock and Awe”?

I confess to being shocked and in awe of this place and these people.

I am shocked by the sheer vastness in numbers of men and women who sacrificed themselves to protect my country, my freedom, my family, ME.

I am in awe at the realization that a great many of these men and women made this offering, the ultimate sacrifice, willingly, voluntarily.

I will never, ever experience the sweet smell of summer roses in quite the same way again. I am changed by the experience of a cool breeze on a hot summer’s day, blowing the aroma of a simple flower across my face. I breathe it in, where it finds its way to the deepest recesses of my mind and soul, taking up permanent residence as a constant reminder of the true price of freedom.