My father was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery today on a beautiful spring day, under a cloudless sky, beneath a tree that rustled in the wind. He was honored for 29 years of military service in the US Army, a career that included 4 tours in Vietnam. It was the way that he wanted it, and I am very pleased that his wishes were honored. The staff at Arlington and the Servicemen who performed the military funeral did an amazing job. They truly take care of their own and they do it right.
I arrived at the Administration Building early to make sure all the paperwork was in order. It struck me as a bit surreal as I journeyed there from my hotel via the Metro and as I waded through hundreds of tourists. I had asked a very nice woman at the Information Desk if she could direct me there and was surprised when she left her post and led me through a back exit out of the way of the crowds to my destination. I was met by dozens of family members who were already there, some of whom I have not seen since my grandfather passed away in 1987. Together we followed the funeral director to the ‘transfer point’ where the young men in uniform transferred my father’s ashes and the American Flag to the casket which was covered with another American Flag and carried in a horse drawn carriage through the historic cemetery to the grave site. A full marching band, a group of Servicemen carrying the colors, and his Honor Guard accompanied all of us on that journey. We followed in cars until we reached the grave site and we assembled there as the Honor Guard brought forth the flag and the urn and the seven Servicemen with the rifles fired their 3 volleys. The service was given by a military chaplain who had taken a lot of time to research my father’s military career. When the service was over, each one of us placed flowers and said prayers as we honored him in our own way. It was an amazing day that I am deeply honored to have been part of…and the thought that he would have approved gives me comfort. It is fitting that he was laid to rest facing the Pentagon, a place where he served some of his military service. I think he would have approved of that as well.
The hallowed ground of Arlington National Cemetery has an aura. It is one of honor…and sacrifice…and freedom…and patriotism. Even living in a military town like San Antonio where we are reminded everyday of the service that the men and women of the military provide, it is not something that we always think about. Believe me, this is not something that you forget at Arlington. You feel it. Even if you close your eyes, the feeling is one of reverence and solemn respect. The chaplain told us that there are 320,000 people buried there…soldiers and families of soldiers. No one may buy their way into Arlington, their entry is earned through their service. On a perfect April day in the year 2012, with the sun shining, the cherry blossoms in bloom, and the wind whispering through the trees this was made perfectly clear to me and everyone in attendance. My heartfelt thanks goes out to the US Military for their efforts just as theirs were expressed to me for the service that my father provided to this country. I am a person who appreciates closure. I have it now and I believe my father does too. Rest well my father. I love you.