Recently I was fortunate enough to have been able to scratch two items off my bucket list. Thanks to the generosity of family and friends, I was given support (money) for my birthday that enabled me to take a trip to Washington D.C., which was a bucket list item. Additionally, I was able to travel back home via AMTRAK, which was another bucket list item. This last was a modified bucket list item because ideally, I would like to travel cross-country via train, but that may have to wait until my next life. I am not complaining, mind you. I am very grateful for the train ride. But more about my trip.
I, and my traveling companion Scott (my brother-in-law) visited a number of museum’s, all the war memorials, and the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. We traveled everywhere, either on foot or via the Metro. I was very impressed by the cleanliness and efficiency of the Metro rapid transit system. I certainly wish we had such a system available here in Cincinnati. Obviously that will not happen in my lifetime.
On our first day in D.C. we were walking past the Reflecting Pool when we were approached my a man who asked if I was a veteran. Perhaps my ball cap with the words “U.S. Navy Veteran” emblazoned across the front in big yellow letters gave me away. He asked this also of my brother-in-law who had served as a U.S. Marine and then asked if we would mind if a few kids came by and thanked us. We happily agreed. I was overcome by emotion when about 75 preteen and teen age boys and girls lined up and filed past us, each one shaking our hands or giving us a hug and thanking us for our service. That was an experience I will never forget.
Later in our travels we had occasion to visit Arlington National Cemetery. I have seen pictures of the cemetery and watched videos, but nothing is as awe-inspiring as seeing it in person. I kept reflecting back on the previous day and the many children who thanked me for my service and all I could do was think, these are the real heroes, these are the people we should thank for their service, and I kept repeating the phrase “thank you for your service” over and over again in my mind. After all, I just showed up, put in my eight years, and went home. All those here in the cemetery showed up, gave the ultimate sacrifice, and never went home. We owe so much to those who gave so much. Yes, truly, thank you for your service.
On another day we visited the National Law Enforcement Memorial. As we walked around the site, looking at all the names on the wall, I once again had to reflect. I too was law enforcement but all I did was show up, put in my twenty-five years, and retired. All these thousands of names inscribed on the wall of those who showed up and gave the ultimate sacrifice for their communities. Sadly, the memorial had very few visitors. It seems as if most Washingtonians simply used the place as a short cut as they crossed over from one side to the other. They were not even looking at the names on the wall and I could not help but wonder if they even knew of the sacrifices made by these officers and their families. I would have been remiss if I did not take some extra time to locate the names of those from my Police Academy class who were killed in the line of duty. David Cole, Dennis Bennington, and Charles Burdsall were located, and photographed. Rest in peace, my brothers, and thank you for your service.
For me the trip was awe-inspiring, humbling, and rewarding. I have always been grateful that I live in the United States of America. I am fortunate to realize this is the greatest nation on earth. I have traveled to many foreign ports and I have a basis for comparison. I believe no one could live in a better place. But I also realize that this all comes with a price. Over a million Americans have given their lives to make sure that we do live in the best place on earth. I am so very grateful for what they have done for us and so I will say it one more time, Thank you for your service.
Those are my thoughts, what are yours?
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Very moving. I’m so glad you were able to have this trip. What a wonderful experience.
This was very enlightening to me. I have always known that many have sacrificed their lives for country or community but that was just knowledge. Your article makes me feel it in a more visceral way .Reading this post gave me a new found respect for veterans, police officers and fire fighters and anyone who is willing to put their lives on the line in the service. Thank you so much for sharing this. And thank you for your service!
Tom, beautifully written (no surprise)! I too was in the Navy (ours) and travelled to numerous foreign ports, which gave me a real appreciation for living in our wonderful country.
I lost an uncle who was shot down while flying a mission over Germany near the end of the war. I visited Arlington, where he is buried, a number of years ago and echo your thoughts about all those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
Thanks again Tom!