Eric and I just recently returned from taking our teenage kids, Lucy and Jonathan on a trip to Washington D.C. We saw and learned so much that we were at times overwhelmed with the amount of information coming our way.
We’re still working on writing about and documenting our trip, but the events of one particular day have been difficult to articulate.
Of course, we visited all the monuments, memorials and museums that are centrally located within the D.C. area. All were interesting and beautiful in their own ways.
However, we were unprepared for what we encountered when we visited the beautiful National World War II Memorial.
It is situated at the east end of the Reflecting Pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. There are two pavilions, which provide entries to the north and south ends of the plaza. There’s the beautiful Rainbow Pool with the restored waterworks, which adds to the celebratory nature of the memorial.
There are quotes on the granite walls about sacrifice and victory. There’s also a field of 4,000 gold stars on the Freedom Wall to commemorate the more than 400,000 Americans who gave their lives. During WWII, the gold star was the symbol of family sacrifice.
Already we were impressed and again, a little overwhelmed as we talked about how that brave and amazing generation is dying out and to our kids we said, “If you ever get a chance to meet a World War II veteran, shake their hand and thank them for their service to our country, for their bravery, and for your freedoms.”
No sooner had we given that admonition, than no less than 3 busloads of World War II veterans started pouring into the memorial. Many of whom were seeing the place for the first time.
We visitors, along with our children formed an impromptu receiving line as we all shook their hands. We were so proud when our kids reached out and shook their hands and said, "thank you." You could see the emotion in their eyes as they received our thanks, some choking back tears as they responded with a modest, “I was just doing my duty.”
On one side were our young teenagers and on the other, seasoned veterans. Neither was prepared to meet the other. Both were shocked by their own strong emotions.
On this Memorial Day, remember that the freedoms we enjoy today came at great personal sacrifice to many. I know that my kids now have a greater respect and appreciation for those that have fought in foreign wars to protect our nation.
We will never again take their sacrifices lightly.
“We can’t all be heroes. Some of us get to stand on the curb and clap as they go by.”
~ Will Rogers
(cross-posted at Babalú blog)