On Monday, I went to Memorial Day services in our little village of Great Falls, Va., about 20 miles from downtown Washington. About 80 local citizens turned out -- not bad, given that only a few thousand souls live in the area. The site of the service, now 4 years old, is a small memorial area next to our public library. After the terrible events of Sept. 11, a handful of local folks conceived the idea for a memorial, got government permission, then financed and built it.
I like the way our little memorial came into being, just as most American Memorial Day sites and traditions since the Civil War did: by the desire and initiative of local folks to remember and honor those who died for us.
It is a modest site. No bronze statues or golden eagles. Just curving brick paths, local foliage, a few fitting words -- such as honor and courage -- carved in the bricks. And at the center of this outside memorial is a fine large local boulder, placed at the center of where we congregate to remember.
While the names of the honored dead are not chiseled in marble, each name is read out individually to the muffled clang of a bell. For such a small village (which, until a few decades ago, had merely hundreds of residents), there was a surprisingly long list. Along with the fallen soldiers were included the names of our neighbors who died Sept. 11. Among those names was my friend and late colleague Barbara Olson, who was busy on her cell phone letting our government know the impending disaster when she and her fellow passengers were obliterated as her plane flew into the Pentagon.
For that and other reasons, it is still personal for me. And it is my impression that it is personal for most people who planned and attended not only our little ceremony but also (as I have been noticing the past couple of years) ceremonies across the country and on the Internet, as well.
There seems to be a distinctive feature to those who still come to remember, to respect, to appreciate, to sing the patriotic hymns, to bow our heads, to lift our vision upward to our flag, to enter communion with both our living fellow citizens and our dead heroes: They tend to come from families with either active or retired military members. Not entirely, but largely. In our little congregation, there were Vietnam vets, a few CIA guys (I think), a newly minted Army second lieutenant, a World War II widow, and other family members.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.