by Lyle J Rapacki, PhD.
NOTE from RFFM's Executive Director, Dan Zanoza: The following commentary is the second installment of three in RFFM.org's Memorial Day series which honors those who have fallen in the defense of liberty. First posted on Feb. 22, 2010, author Lyle J. Rapacki PhD. writes about Arlington National Cemetery's Old Guard and a tradition based on respect and memoriam to those who keep vigil over hallowed ground.
Not all of Washington, D.C. was shut-down recently because of snow. At the Tomb of the Unknowns, members of "The Old Guard" continued to walk post; just like they have every day, every night, during rain, snow, freeze, and even during a hurricane a couple of years ago. They never stopped walking, they never stopped their vigil, they never stopped honoring and remembering.
Years ago, I was privileged to be present during the "Changing of the Watch" at midnight. Virtually no one was around. It was pitch black and cold. A slight breeze with a drizzle was my companion, along with my escort. But virtually, that was all who were present, except "The Old Guard." They noticed me only out of vigilance, and I have no doubt they would have challenged me if I had approached The Tomb. Otherwise, they walked, they never stopped their vigil, they never stopped honoring and remembering.
I guess America is a strange land to many across the world. Americans are a strange people, too. We are different. We detest war, but our military are the first on shore when freedom is being strangled and tyranny is raising it's demonic head. We are flush with many fine toys and material items, but we are the first to share these, anywhere in the world, when storms and calamities come to a country and people, and wipe-out all they own. We love to laugh and sing and have a good time, and we export the same to all corners of the earth to help people everywhere lighten their load - even if briefly. There is much we have, and much we extend to others.
But the reverence for our brave and selfless "keepers of the flame of freedom," those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, in the line-of-duty, is one example all other countries have imitated, and in which you never hear a despairing word.
May you ponder the cost our military men and women bear without truly griping. May you imagine the hardship, loneliness, separation from loved ones and familiar surroundings our military endures in far away lands. May you think, for just a moment, our fragile freedom is protected, in part, by some kids who just a year or two ago were drag racing down the street, and today race across a "kill zone" praying to be faster than ever.
The dedicated members of "The Old Guard" acknowledge the aforesaid, and more, and consider it an honor to walk, and continue their vigil, and never stop honoring or remembering all who paid the ultimate price for freedom. They march in front of this hallowed tomb for us, too.
Part 1: Medal of Honor Recipients: Doug Sterner's Home of Heroes Web Site Honors True Heroes: An Interview with Doug Sterner by Dan Gura: http://rffm.typepad.com/republicans_for_fair_medi/2010/02/medal-of-honor-recipients-doug-sterners-web-site-honors-true-heroes-an-interview.html
RFFM's Memorial Day Series will conclude with Part 3 with an essay titled Arlington National Cemetery: A Husband Honored: A Memorial To Serve A Family For A Lifetime by Jo Dermody
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