On Monday, I asked my son if he knew what day it was … he tilted his head, squinted his eyes, lifted his finger to his chin and tapped away like he was seriously considering some life altering decision. And then,
“Library day!” He replied.
Ah, yes. I thought. Library day … I smiled, rubbed his head and to myself said,
“Thank you. Thank you veterans, thank you soldiers, thank you everyone who has helped make this country a place where my five year old can have library day.”
Later that afternoon my twelve year old asked me about Arlington; apparently they had shown a film clip at school. I told her what I knew … and then I spent the next two hours reading because I realized I did not know enough to answer even my most pressing questions – like who is there? Who can be there? How many people are there … and who is buried at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier? Here’s the basics of what struck me … forewarning, I did my best not to turn this into something that would sound like a high school report, but it wasn’t easy – not when you consider how much there is to learn about this sacred place.
THE NUMBERS, for perspectives sake:
~ 25-30 funerals take place each and every day, or just under 7,000 a year
~ 65 victims of the September, 11 attack on the World Trade Center are buried
~ 72 tons, $48,000, 1932 – the year the Tomb of the Unknowns was commissioned (which BTW is the final resting place for a soldier from WWI, WWII, The Korean War, and up until 1998, First Lieutenant Michael Blassie of the United States Air Force; once his remains were identified they were returned to his family. The space that once held this Vietnam soldier’s remains is still empty.)
~ 624 acres of land
~ 1864, the year the US Government confiscated the land from Robert E. Lee’s family
~ 1948, April 6th, the 3rd US Infantry took over the perpetual guarding of the Tomb of the Unknowns.
~ 2007, the year that the pentacle was allowed to be shown on tombs
~ 3,800 former slaves buried under the heading “civilian”
~ 300,000 interments at Arlington
I have never been to Arlington. But when I see pictures of the thousands upon thousands of white crosses I am moved by emotions that I can not explain – and I for one am thankful for the country that I live in and for all the sacrifices that were made and are being made so my son can have a library day.
Now that you’ve spent three minutes reading this post, take another three minutes and watch THIS … really, I have never shared a video or anything like this before, but this is important. Pass it on to your friends – and to ditto Justin Timberlake’s tweet after his experience at the Marine Corps Ball, “Tell them thank you – and next time you’re in a bar next to a soldier, buy them a beer.”