For my fellow IBMers, I ask you not share this blog with let's say, my current project PMs or my SAM. I'll do some document work for you in return.
My current project is in the DC area. Due to some schedule changes Rob and I have some extra time on our hands. (Oh yeah, Rob and I are working together again. I think he must have been on some seriously hard core cold meds when he agreed to work with me again.) Extra time for us is very dangerous. It's especially bad in DC considering Rob majored in anthropology and as much as he calls me a dork for my Mobile work he is a dork for history. I don't mind history, so off we went.
Today I told him I was picking our lunch location. It just so happened to be by the Pentagon. It really doesn't matter what landmark you pick, Rob is cool with it. We passed the Air Force monument but we couldn't stop to admire it. On the way back to the office, I decided the weather was nice and I that I was wearing the right shoes and that we should walk around the cemetery.
The visitor center is spectacular. We had a bit of time but not all day so I asked if we could see the Tomb of the Unknowns. There was a lot more to see but our field trips can't take all day. I wanted to see JFK's grave site and walk around. I thought the Milwaukee VA cemetery was big. Turns out that is nothing compared to Arlington. One of the facts Rob taught me to today is that the cemetery was once General Lee's plantation.
As we walked up to the tomb, we heard a military band and marching. A procession was coming down the hill. The band was in the front followed by rows, maybe 15 or 20, of a military branch I couldn't identify.
Then it hit me. This isn't a happy affair passing us. The formality of the situation was due to a funeral service. The cemetery does more than 20 services each weekday. Yes, read that sentence again. According to the details of a military funeral, an enlisted personnel earns a casket team, firing party, and bugler. This procession also included the caisson, band, and escorting troops.
The caparisoned (riderless) horse marched proudly down the path. The funeral we were watching was for either an Army or Marine Colonel or higher.
I hate that feeling when your throat closes and you feel the tears about to spill over. As the casket passed and the caparisoned horse strutted by, you could feel the sorrow, respect, and pride that thousands have felt on that sacred ground. It was hard not to mourn someone I will never know who spent most of his life saving and protecting mine and yours. The strangers around us moved on. I watched the movement turn at the bottom of the hill and go on. The moment was stunning to the eye and heart, but I felt it was disrespectful to capture it by photos.
I put myself back in working order. We watched the changing of the guard ritual. The tomb's setting is remarkable. On a brisk, clear December day, you can see from a top the hill out over DC. The trees were bare and sad, but stood tall in respect. Our backs were to the Memorial Amphitheater. I've never seen the ruins in Greece, but I think this structure is about as close as I can get in the US. The amphitheater is made of marble. Above the west entrance is a Latin phrase (the title of this post) which is translated to "It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country."
On our way back to the visitor center and ultimately to the office, I knew I should write down how I felt today. I read a quote the other day, "If you won't stand behind our troops, stand in front of them." There is not a strong military identity in my family. Both of my grandfathers served as did my dad, but I can't say we consider ourselves very loyal to one particular branch. Being in the Maximo practice I have met a lot military men and their families. What I was strongly reminded of today was that these people are not Republican or Democratic or Tea Party or Independent. The military from the past, present, and future give of themselves for the rest of us. Whether it is right to send troops into battle or not, we must support them and their families.
Few of the many headstones.
Tomb of the Unknowns - Changing of the Guard Ritual