This year’s Memorial Day weekend is upon us. I found this video recently that was made to record the “Last Walk” of this female sentinel, or tomb guard, at Arlington National Cemetery and felt it would be a great visual for demonstrating the proper solemnity and dignity due our fallen heroes on this Memorial Day.
Though the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier remembers and honors those who fell in battle and were unable to be identified, it ultimately represents all who have fallen, those who have given their last full measure in the defense of freedom and the Constitution of the United States of America.
Many of you may have visited Arlington National Cemetery and seen the “Changing of the Guard” ceremony. If you have, I can imagine that you, like me when I saw it for the first time, were struck with the silent and starkly serene dignity of the place and with the pomp and circumstance and the military precision of the sentinels in the carrying out of their duties before that solitary tomb.
But, if you remember, the Tomb of the Unknown is situated on a height that looks down over one of the sections of Arlington National Cemetery, with its precise rows of white crosses and Stars of David that mark the resting places of some 400,000 veterans, many of whom died in combat. It is a very moving sight. Indeed, it is my experience, each time I’ve been there, that the emotions that come over me are so deep that words are not sufficient to express them.
As a combat veteran, that place stirs up memories that are now 53 years in my past of those whom I knew in my unit who fell in Vietnam. I’m sure it is the same for all who have been in combat who have been going there since the Civil War, when Arlington National Cemetery took over the grounds of Robert E. Lee’s former plantation and began burying the Union dead there.
It is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that focuses our minds on the true cost of our nation’s freedom. From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror, over 1,200,000 men and women have given their lives for our country. This singular tomb on the heights above Arlington, in its own way, represents all of them. The tomb guards, or sentinels, in carrying out their solemn duties 24/7/365, help us to never forget those heroes who have laid down their lives for the nation.
There are three days during the year that are set aside to honor our military: the other two are Armed Forces Day, which honors those who are still in uniform, and Veterans Day, which honors those who served but no longer wear the uniform. But this day, Memorial Day, is set aside exclusively to honor all those who never took off the uniform, those who died on the field of battle.
Let the video of Staff Sergeant Hanks’s “Last Walk” set in your mind the proper sense in which to celebrate this Memorial Day, Monday, May 31, 2021. Listen to the silence of the place, hear the snap of rifles and clicking of heels and see the precision of every movement of the sentinels. They are all designed to heighten the awareness of the proper honor and dignity that those who fell in battle deserve.
Share this with your children and explain what is happening and why, so that they can begin to understand that freedom, this blessed right that we often take for granted, isn’t free. It has a cost, and there are a few who were willing to pay that cost for us all. The following are the words carved on one side of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier:
“Here Rests in Honored Glory An American Soldier Known But To God”
Honor and Respect! Remember!Whizzco