Remarkable Honor

Mel Williams
Digital Creative Director

Remarkable Honor

They say visiting Arlington cemetery will change you. There are no words to explain what that even means. This is my attempt.

The purpose of our journey was to lay wreaths at the markers and speak out-loud the names etched into the stones. Wreaths Across America started as one man’s dedication and has grown into a national movement that coordinates wreath-laying ceremonies across the nation, at sea and abroad.

We shuffled into the crowd and claimed a spot in the ice-covered sidewalk progression. The sleet that covered every surface of the landscape around us was slowly creept into the layers of our clothing. Regardless of the weather, there were thousands of people descending from all directions and distances. This silent homage in itself was an incredible sight to see.

As we passed the gates, the acres of graves began to unfold into view. Without even realizing it, we had stopped walking. We were frozen in the emotion and the reality of what seemed distant stories that we once read in history books. The impact of war was stretched for miles in every direction.

We made our way to the wreaths, filled our arms and crossed the chained boundary of the sidewalk and the grass that separated the graves. At first, we walked past stone after stone, pausing to silently ready each name, their rank and calculated the chronology of their life. The more I met, the more I wanted to hear the stories hidden in between the dash of their birthday and the day they died. We selected, announced and adorned several sites throughout the cemetery, with every single one just as emotional as the next. These people, much like us, had lives focused on family, friends and finding their place in the world.

As we made our way out of the maze of stones and people towards the exit, I started to notice the world around me. Witnessing families in tears, active-duty military marching and elderly women at the feet of departed husbands pushed me into an emotionally humbling state of what it truly means to be an American. I’m convinced that anyone there that day gained an overwhelming sense of restored hope in our country. Being in the geographic heart of political and historical America, thousands of people gathered leaving their religions, opinions, agendas and differences behind to honor our freedom and those who paid the ultimate price....and we did it together.

Alone we can do so little; 
together we can do so much.

-Helen Keller