A cherry tree blossoms in April overlooking the fallen at Arlington National Cemetery.

A cherry tree blossoms during the month of April overlooking the fallen at Arlington National Cemetery.

Some years ago, I attended a business conference in Washington, DC. It was my first and only time to visit, but it was a successful trip. I stayed busy with various meetings, but in my spare time, I tried to see as many historical sites as possible.

There are many things to see, and I tried, but there were things I missed because of time limitations. I saw our glorious Declaration of Independence, and I walked the halls of the Capitol building and visited the White House. After buying some new, comfortable walking shoes, I strolled along the Mall to see the many monuments. I saw them all, even finding my uncle’s name on the Vietnam Wall, and I stared in awe at the monuments to Washington and Lincoln. The Jefferson Memorial was particularly intriguing. All were interesting; plus, it was also April, and the cherry trees were in full bloom and stunningly beautiful.

However, there was one place that I had vowed to visit: Arlington National Cemetery to see the “Changing of the Guard” at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier—the solemn ceremony that occurs 24/7/365 come rain, sleet, snow or hurricane.

That’s what I went to see, but I found something different.

As I walked across the hills of those hallowed grounds, a 624-acre resting place for more than 400,000 soldiers, I was overwhelmed and moved to hard tears. It was an emotion I didn’t expect, and something I rarely do—cry, but cry I did. To put it plainly—I had to walk away from other people there to hide my ugly form and compose myself. It’s tough to describe, and I still remember the distinct feeling, but for some reason, I seemed able to feel the sorrow and pain and sacrifice inscribed in those sacred grounds, and for what so many thousands there had given their lives—America.

It’s there in that place on those sprawling hills laden with tombstones as far as the eye can see that one should realize why all the other buildings and documents and monuments in DC make sense. For without those graves, none of it would be possible.

I was forever moved emotionally, even now, by that one visit to Arlington. It will be with me always, and I with them. This is why we commemorate Memorial Day—to remember, honor, and respect those that gave all so that we can enjoy the freedoms of such a holiday and every day. God bless America! Stand beside her and guide her—we must!

Put Arlington on your list of places to visit; you’ll be glad you did and the better for it. Have a safe, blessed weekend!

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