I can still feel my soggy sandals from walking through the wet grass at many cemeteries. The honor and privilege have been mine/ours to visit hallowed grounds, St. Avold, Arlington National, The Military Cemetery at Luxemburg, Vimy Ridge, and The Beaches at Normandy, sadly the list is longer. Every year, I have walked behind my dress uniform clad husband to pay our respects. I have tried to stay in the moment. Steeling myself and giving a moment of thanks instead of dissolving into tears upon seeing the young ages engraved on the new stones. Those pieces of granite that reveal the same first names as our boys, give a catch in my throat and heart.
Today, instead of buying a mattress on sale or buying sneakers at some super special Memorial Day sale, we visited Tahoma National Cemetery. The weather and the importance of the moment resulted in my cold hands and feet. The dark, gray and cloudy sky filled with rain was apropos. Flags graced each of the stones. Huge flags that lined the drive waved in the slight wind. There were flowers, oh the flowers. Some very traditional and formal bouquets, some hastily bought at a grocery store along the way, some just a single bloom laid at the base of the marker. Many red, white and blue, however, some were brilliant, intense colors and hues, color that brought a feeling of love and adoration to the day.
In the wet grass, a lone unopened bottle of American beer was leaning askew against a very new head stone. Yes, the flag on the wooden dowel was placed perfectly straight in the center front of the marker. The beverage was in no way formal. It was completely unexpected. The contrast was striking.
Last year we saw a big tough guy, get out of his truck, prop open his well used webbed folding lawn chair directly in front of a marker, push his old baseball cap back farther on his head, sit down heavily and light a cigar.
The distance between good manners, proper etiquette, prim and proper attire
and Semper Fi (yes, all branches) is closer than most would like to admit.
Ps. Oh, how I love a man in uniform, especially Mr. Right.