Saturday, June 15, 2013


Like most Americans, I had seen pictures of Arlington National Cemetery either in books or on TV.  I was really excited to go there and take pictures!  This was the first stop in our family vacation to Washington, DC.  While I had seen pictures of this place, I was completely unprepared for what I was about to see.  After leaving the Visitor's Center, we begin winding our way into the cemetery.  We were excited to see the popular spots...the Unknown Soldier Memorial, where JFK was buried, etc.  As we started up the road into the cemetery, I was arrested by what I saw.  I literally stopped walking and just stared.  I remember putting my hand over my mouth, acutely aware that my mouth was probably hanging open at this point.  Any words I may have spoken were quickly erased.  I remember my son asking me what was wrong, and as I choked back tears, I told him that nothing was wrong, it was just overwhelming.  That was the only word I could come up with to describe what I felt.  In reality, there are no words to describe the emotions that I felt.  Overwhelmed.  Proud.  Grateful.

To think that each one of the grave stones in the fields stretched out in front of us, as far as the eye could see, either represented someone who gave their life in service to our country, or represented a spouse or child of someone who served our country.  And to think that other servicemen and women may be buried with their families or at other military bases around the country.  I was simply amazed.

I quickly discovered that no matter how I composed my shot, I was unable to capture the vastness of this place.  It seemed that around every corner, or at the top of each hill (and there were a lot of hills!), I was taken aback at the vast number of grave stones there were.

We finally made it to the Unknown Soldier Memorial and we were able to observe the changing of the guard.  This is a ceremony that is repeated once every 30 minutes.  To say that this is solemn, is quite an understatement.  Being quiet and serious during this ceremony is not only expected, it is required.  Before the ceremony begins, the crowd is instructed that they are not allowed to even sit down while this is happening.  

This photo shows the memorial with a single red rose laid at its base.  This view has Washington DC in the background.

As I stated before, capturing the emotions that I felt within a single photo was impossible.  As we continued walking, I started concentrating on smaller sets of grave stones to photograph.  We would read individual stones and see what war they fought in and when they died.  When I look at grave stones, the first thing I do is some quick math to see what the age of that person was when they died.  This last photo includes a grave stone for Sgt. Frederick Samuel Smoot.  According to his grave stone, Sgt. Smoot fought during World War II, and died on November 30, 1950.  As I did the quick math, he died at 39 years of age.  

Before that day we went to Arlington National Cemetery, I had never heard the name of Frederick Samuel Smoot, but today, I want to say thank you to Sgt. Smoot and his family.  Thank you for your service.  Thank you for the sacrifice that you and your family made for our country so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have today.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit Arlington National Cemetery, you will not be disappointed.  You will definitely feel the patriotism and the pride of being an American!

1 comment:

  1. Great read. Humbling to say it lightly. When we were there we were able to see a burial service of A senator. Horse drawn processional,taps And 21 gun salute. Just bone chilling. I want to visit normandy,they say it is larger.