About 1200 miles in under 30 hours. Ian, Dave and I headed down to Washington, D.C. to visit Arlington National Cemetery to find the headstones of two of my uncles. We drove through the night and arrived in D.C. around 6:30am. The cemetery had yet to open so we went out into the chilly morning air to explore the WWII Memorial as the sun broke the horizon. We spent an hour walking the ramps and steps of the memorial with our hands shoved in our pockets and shoulders up to our ears to keep warm. Joggers shuffled by, groups of students huddled together, a lone soldier passed through the memorial.
We piled into the car and headed over to Arlington, the sun still low in the sky. As we walked out to the cemetery, the sunlight was reflecting off of the white headstones. We crossed the road and walked up to a section of the cemetery in silence. Rows upon rows of headstones. Each headstone represents someone who has served our country. Some lived long lives, some tragically short. However, they all had that one thing in common. It was an overwhelming sight. It was surreal. It was heartbreaking. I felt that if I were to utter a word it would have been unintelligible. My eyes had welled up and the emotion and power of that place had overcome me.
We moved slowly and silently amongst the headstones. Reading the names on them, reading the conflict in which they had served, learning how old they had been when they were put in the ground. Strangers who we had never met, who we will never meet. We eventually made our way to where each one of my uncles were buried and up to the Tomb of Unknown Soldiers to witness the changing of the guard. We took our time walking out amongst the dead, thankful for the experience and thankful that we live in a place that allowed us to make this trip.
After Arlington we stopped off in Leesburg to meet a friend of Ian's for lunch and headed back on the road. Perhaps a hair-brained idea. Totally worth it. Thanks to Ian and Dave for accompanying me on this trip. Driving, keeping me awake, sharing in the experience. And again... Thank you to all that have and do serve our country.