Monday, November 10, 2014
Of Arlington...And Other Fields of Green
We are the spirits of Arlington, resting here, gathered from disparate times and places
Mother country carried us here...from Des Moines, from Little Rock, from the Red River of The North
They lay us to rest here and in the evening we still hear the call of trumpets...and Chapel bells..and the cool evening winds whisper through the Birch and Ash and Chestnuts..and cool our fevered brow
Majestic Oak and Pine and Redwoods stand tall, sentinels who watch over us and sing the songs of old.
A little farther up the hill, across a span of a thousand white crosses, rests a young man who once commanded us; he rests below an eternal flame that says death cannot destroy a dream
Only defer it, for the dream is real..and the dream shall never die
And the people come! They come from all over the world, to bear witness to America's great sacrifice in the name of freedom, to fortify a belief that personal liberty is the providence of our God.
And there are mournful times, when the family of a comrade carries him to his ultimate rest
Tears of loss are shed, and yet, as they look about at thousands of alabaster crosses all about them,
they take comfort in knowing their loved ones have reunited with old friends, old comrades.
And tonight we spirits will gather around the ancient campfires, drinking bad coffee from tin cups, and tell stories of Bull Run, of Cold Harbor, of San Juan Hill, of Pork Chop Hill and Khe Sanh and unnamed villages in the mountains of Afghanistan.
We'll gaze into the embers of our camp fire and recall the booming of cannon and thump of mortar
And take heart that we did the very best we could..that we gave our all for our beloved country
We are the spirits of Arlington
We are the spirits of Normandy...and St. Germaine. We rest 3,000 miles away, in a land never ours, for we fought for freedom..and never territory!
Too many of us then to bring us all back for America's last embrace
The Frenchmen, who still gratefully remember, visit us. And sometimes Americans, far from home, will venture down on a Sunday morning to breakfast on cheese and baguette...and marvel at the vastness of our sacrifice as the sun rises and chases the shadows from ten thousand crosses.
And sometimes the old ones come....the ones who were here on those June days when hell rained fire upon us. They wander down row after row, looking for a familiar name...to match a sinewy and youthful face they've visited in their dreams for half a century.
And they will stop, kneel and caress the alabaster remnant, and whisper words of solace and comfort
And in the evening, when everyone is gone, we rise in unison and march to the sea wall..and remember
And then God arrays the sea with a golden moon..and urges us to rest...our job is done..
We are the spirits of those who are buried in 10,000 small places across America. Our little hometowns, in loving memory, have set aside a place of rest for us.
The towns folk drive past us time after time throughout the year; a mom taking her kids to soccer practice, the fellow on his way to his factory job, the waitress heading for the diner.
And on "our day" miniature American flags will be set beside our graves...and the living will slow down as they pass, perhaps nod in appreciation for our sacrifice, perhaps say a prayer that the sacrifice will have proven to be worth it.
And in the evening we rise as one, and walk the streets of our home town. We'll ramble past the home that once gave us succor and comfort...and love. We'll stop to sit on a curb where once we tumbled from roller skates on an endless summer day. We'll stroll past the church and remember the Sunday school lessons taught to us, with patience and care. We'll linger beneath an Aspen tree and gaze up at the same stars that shone on the night we had our first kiss.
And those same stars will remind us to return to our resting places...and sleep peacefully beneath the same heavens that shone down on once youthful faces, immersed in an innocence that shall never be again.
We are the spirits of those buried in 10,000 small places across America.
And as long as America remembers us, our sacrifice will not have been in vain...and the dream shall never die.