Blood, Sweat, and Tears of Sacrifice
A few years ago we visited Washington, D. C. for the first time. We took a trolley tour at dusk to view the monuments. The night air was chilly, but standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial—literally at Abe’s feet—was awe-inspiring. Walking along the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and touching the names with my fingertips brought tears to my eyes. Seeing Franklin D. Roosevelt in his wheelchair reminded me that the word “handicap” should only apply to golfers. Visiting Mount Vernon and strolling on the estate where our very first president, George Washington, once lived was a humbling experience.
If I could sum up the trip in one word it would be “sacrifice.” Being in our nation’s capital made me appreciate the men and women who sacrificed their time, their personal lives, and, in many cases, their lives to establish our country. No other place reminded me of this like Arlington National Cemetery. We walked to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and watched the changing of the guard. There were hundreds of tourists from all over the world watching with us, and the silence was so complete you could have heard a pin drop. As we were walking back down the hill to catch the bus, I heard something that really gave me pause. In the distance was a bugle playing Taps. It was a clear, cold sunny day. A gentle breeze was blowing through the cherry trees. Everywhere I looked there were white tombstones, rows and rows of them as far as I could see.
Is there any way for us to really understand the blood, sweat, and tears that have taken our nation this far? Can schoolchildren understand the meaning of the word sacrifice in terms of the history of our country? Are there words to express our appreciation to veterans and families who have lost sons and daughters in battle?
I don’t know. But I do know this: on the 4th of July, when the fireworks go off and the patriotic music plays, my mind will be at Arlington. My heart will swell with pride and love for this great nation and for others who love it like I do. And the tears I shed when I hear someone sing our National Anthem will be for those families who truly understand the meaning of the word sacrifice.