It was too early on a wintry Saturday morning when I began my journey to Arlington National Cemetery. Upon arrival, I marveled at the Wreaths Across America production – the semi-trailer trucks designated to each section, ensuring the perfect amount of wreaths, and the coordination of thousands of volunteers. My tendency toward perfectionism compelled me to grab all of the wreaths and try to complete the project.
I squashed the nagging feeling and breathed in the cool air, looked over the Cemetery, and reminded myself about the gravity of the day. I recalled this special privilege to honor our military. As I passed World War I, World War II, Vietnam, and Korean veterans, prisoners of war and Purple Heart recipients, my humility grew.
After making a few wrong turns, and thoroughly spanning the area, Section 60 stared at me. I prepared myself to see graves of young service members and subsequently watched as a young girlfriend mourned the loss of her fallen warrior. She cried hysterically and fell to the ground as she remembered the life they shared together. Tears filled my eyes as I publicly observed this personal moment. I privately began to pray and moved on, allowing her to grieve without an audience.
I laid my first wreath and silently thanked this hero for his service, sacrifice, and dedication to protecting our freedoms. So many thoughts flashed through my mind – wondering about everything this man had experienced and everything his comrades had experienced.
The day was overwhelming and humbling. Most importantly, it was an honor. I will forever remember the details from the day, the stories shared, and the thousands of volunteers – from 5 to 85 years old. It may be trite, but I was truly proud to be an American.