(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.