The President arrived on the stage without Ruffles and Flourishes.
The crowd was silent.
This was not a ceremony of pomp and circumstance, nor an occasion for soaring rhetoric.
The President spoke, quietly, of sacrifice, and of duty, and of honor. He spoke of young men and young women who would never live out their lives. He spoke of a last kiss between a husband and his wife; a last wink and wisecrack of a brother to a sister as a train pulled out of a station; a father and his son hugging for a final time at an airport.
Afterward, we stood at the Tomb of the Unknowns to watch the Changing of the Guard; the silent military ballet which takes place there 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Arlington National Cemetery, on Memorial Day, has nothing to do with the sweep and grandeur of history, nor the gigantic commitment of resources to battles and wars; nor grand strategies and brilliant tactics.
It is a place where - and the day when - we remember the individual men and women who were killed at Bull Run, and Belleau-Wood, at Iwo Jima, on Omaha Beach, and in Korea, Viet Nam, Afghanistan, and Iraq and all the other un-locatable places with unpronounceable names where we have sent young men and women to fight and, too often, to die.
Arlington National Cemetery, on Memorial Day, has everything to do with a single white headstone nestled in a neat row among all the other white headstones next to it, in front of it, and behind it. Up hills and down swales.
It stands, along with the others, in silent acceptance of a nation's gratitude.
Having found it, we paused at one white headstone. One among a quarter of a million. The one with the words carved upon it:
Flags in hand, in the wet grass, on a gray morning on Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery, we once again paid our respects to her dad.
And prayed silently, that he, here in the company of his comrades, rest.
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