We’ve all heard that a million times, haven’t we? Freedom isn’t free. I’ll be honest, there was a time where Memorial Day was just another four day weekend for me. I spent the time at the pool, with friends, or just enjoying a Monday off. I’ll also be the first to tell you that there’s nothing wrong with those things. However, Memorial Day has come to mean so much more to me as I’ve gotten older.
If you look back in my family tree, we have a long list of people who served in the military. I had a grandpa who served in the Navy, one who was awarded a Purple Heart in Korea, a step grandpa who did a career in the Army and saw time in both Korea and Vietnam. My father-in-law and his brothers served, and I have so many others that spent time in the service. My husband has also spent almost fourteen year serving in the Army.
When we moved to the DC area, we took our kids to Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day. I wanted my kids to see first hand why they weren’t in school. I wanted them to experience what Memorial Day was about. We walked around and saw the Tomb of the Unknowns, visited JFK’s gravesite, and we ended the day over in section 60.
I’m sure you’ve all seen pictures of Arlington Cemetery. The changing of the guards is done every day, rain or shine, and people come from all over to see it. I remember at age sixteen rushing through the gates and making my way back to the tomb so I could catch the changing of the guards. People stand a awe and watch as the guards go through the ceremony of handing over the duties to their peers. People crowd around, take pictures, and watch as it all happens. This is the Arlington most people think about.
Section 60 carries a much different feeling. As you walk the street, you see family and friends at the graves of their loved ones. You see children sitting by the graves of their parent. People bring chairs, coolers, and they stay for the day. Beers sit open, but untouched on the tombstones. These soldiers have mothers and fathers, wives and girlfriends, children, friends, and those that have served with them all there remembering them on this day. Some of them come from thousands of miles just to sit with their loved one again for the day. It’s in these faces and at these graves that you truly understand what these men and women have scarified.
When I visited section 60 on Memorial Day, I was overwhelmed with a sense of sadness and pride. To know that these men and women gave so much to protect my freedoms, the freedoms of my family, is something I can never repay. So today, and every other day, I honor them the best way I can. I remember that the freedom I enjoy isn’t free.