This I Believe

James - Annville, Pennsylvania
Entered on April 24, 2007

I believe in the sanctity and reverence of our nation’s National Cemeteries. Each visit shows me that there is much to hold in awe. I believe that our nation’s shrines are nothing less than a bright and shining example to the world of the value of sacrifice, and the blessings of selfless service to our nation’s ideals and this beacon of democracy.

I am a child of the 60’s and 70’s. Much of my youth was spent watching our nation tear at its very fabric. I watched and lived in a nation grieving, angry, and confused by the loss of “Jack”, “Martin”, and “Bobby”. Protests and demonstrations pitting sons and daughters against mothers and fathers, brothers against brothers, and those with means against those that struggled each day to simply make ends meet. It was a time of war, of peace, love, hate, awareness, and ignorance, seemingly without a single voice of sanity or reason to be found that wasn’t ripped from the hearts of those turbulent days.

Yet despite the turmoil that I believed had started to swallow our national soul the Department of Veterans Affairs quietly and diligently assumed operational responsibility for our nation’s veteran burial grounds. These hallowed grounds were originally established by Abraham Lincoln to accommodate the burial needs for all veterans, from all wars, reaching back to this nation’s infancy. Burial grounds that in many cases were the very ground where veterans fought, bled and died by the hundreds of thousands in our nations first and last civil war. This duty is all to clear for those who understand the timeless charge; “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan.”

Time continues its march forward. While the events of today are no less tumultuous, and our hero’s no less courageous or dedicated, I remain mesmerized by these oases of honor and dignity. Like a moth to a flame, I continue to be drawn to the magnificent examples within their gated walls. Their achievements, heroism, humility, and contributions etched forever in stone. Their inspiration, dedication to family, and the ethics of service and sacrifice because it was the “right” thing to do.

The headstones and markers in our National Cemeteries archive devoted relationships, tight knit families, sorrow, pain, and the brilliance of blind faith while they also express a powerful and wonderful family dynamic the likes of which this nation will struggle to maintain in the generations ahead.

Each day a legion of veterans in our national cemeteries stands ready to serve and support those who can no longer support or defend themselves. As veteran we hold in reverence those who have defended our Constitution, served in harms way and at times borne the ultimate sacrifice. Just as the headstones and markers of our national cemeteries stand shoulder to shoulder, I believe all veterans stand shoulder to shoulder believing that our veterans deserve no less than these National Shrines, the very best our nation can offer.