Preparing for Memorial Day: Sacred Duty: A Soldier’s Tour at Arlington National Cemetery – Sen Tom Cotton #Imprimis
Posted By RichC on May 26, 2019
Earlier this week I posted something frivolous for a Music Monday, which happens to be Memorial Day, so I’m going to include is post a day early on Sunday thinking others might read it as a way to learn a little more about those who make the ultimate sacrifice in service of our country. If you have never given much thought or just need a reminder as to why we remember and honor those who died, reading the book Sacred Duty: A Soldier’s Tour at Arlington National Cemetery by U.S. Senator Tom Cotton is worthwhile.
If you hesitant to purchase the book, take a look a the article adapted from a speech delivered on April 9, 2019 at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington D.C.
Every headstone at Arlington tells a story. These are tales of heroes, I thought, as I placed the toe of my combat boot against the white marble. I pulled a miniature American flag out of my assault pack and pushed it three inches into the ground at my heel. I stepped aside to inspect it, making sure it met the standard that we had briefed to our troops: “vertical and perpendicular to the headstone.” Satisfied, I moved to the next headstone to keep up with my soldiers. Having started this row, I had to complete it. One soldier per row was the rule; otherwise, different boot sizes might disrupt the perfect symmetry of the headstones and flags. I planted flag after flag, as did the soldiers on the rows around me.
Bending over to plant the flags brought me eye-level with the lettering on those marble stones. The stories continued with each one. Distinguished Service Cross. Silver Star. Bronze Star. Purple Heart. America’s wars marched by. Iraq. Afghanistan. Vietnam. Korea. World War II. World War I. Some soldiers died in very old age; others were teenagers. Crosses, Stars of David, Crescents and Stars. Every religion, every race, every age, every region of America is represented in these fields of stone.
I came upon the gravesite of a Medal of Honor recipient. I paused, came to attention, and saluted. The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest decoration for battlefield valor. By military custom, all soldiers salute Medal of Honor recipients irrespective of their rank, in life and in death. We had reminded our soldiers of this courtesy; hundreds of grave sites would receive salutes that afternoon. I planted this hero’s flag and kept moving.
For me, having visited Arlington National Cemetery a couple times (once on an honor trip with my dad), reading this article and learning about just how seriously the Old Guard (the 3rd United States Infantry Regiment) takes their duty was humbling. As Sen Cotton’s final paragraph reflects …
No one summed up better what The Old Guard of Arlington means for our nation than Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey. He shared a story with me about taking a foreign military leader through Arlington to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Sergeant Major Dailey said, “I was explaining what The Old Guard does and he was looking out the window at all those headstones. After a long pause, still looking at the headstones, he said, ‘Now I know why your soldiers fight so hard. You take better care of your dead than we do our living.’”