December is often a cold month in Virginia. The wind blows from the north, rain can turn to ice, and Canada seeks its own form of revenge against DC in the form of the Alberta Clipper. Having lived in this area for most of the last 10 years, I am prepared for anything December offers. I might not like it, but I am prepared.
Last year, 1 December provided a glimpse into what December can offer - icy spots farther west, a freezing wind when it blew, moments of brilliant sun, and minutes of pouring rain. All this happened within a 24 hour period.
It was in this weather, in these conditions, that I found myself on that Monday afternoon. While cars lined the lane behind us, my mom, her former acquaintance, and I walked behind the Caisson and the DC area USAF ceremonial guard. The wind whipped my hair as I snuggled more deeply into my coat and considered my surroundings.
I am the product of long lines of military service. Neither of my parents served, but men throughout both sides of my family did so – many of them making the military their first career. One of my dearest friends recently retired having served her last tour as the Ex-O of the Navy Ceremonial Guard in DC. Not to mention I work with a high percentage of retired military officers. Yet, despite my association with the military, I had never attended a funeral service at Arlington National Cemetery until Monday.
I do not know if I can find the words to do justice to this moving ceremony. The silence, the precision, the simple beauty of the surroundings, the attention to detail… each characteristic united to form a ceremony that lacked pretence. The ceremonies are understated dignity – simply moving.
Visiting Arlington can be a moving experience. Tucked away in the midst of the National Capital Metro Area, the cemetery is peaceful with its rolling hills, and landscaping. Thousands of visitors wander the grounds paying their respects. And that Monday I was one such person.
Taps sounded through the hushed air as 20 of us stood to honor the Colonel as well as the thousands of others who found peace in these hollowed grounds. Though the wind continued to blow, I no longer noticed. Each note of music, each visitor, each crisp movement, and every detail of the ceremony paid tribute to the men and women and the duty they performed.
It is this memory that entered my mind on this Veteran’s Day. The rain falling from the sky and the wind blowing from the north – and a country paying tribute to those who have served in the US military.