On a high spot across the Potomac, there sits a house. If you stand on one of its porches, you have a beautiful panoramic view of the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument. It was once owned by the grandson of a President and a general. But, now it stands as a sentinel, standing watch over gleaming fields of white stones. They are bright in the summer sun, each one accompanied by a small flag.
When one walks amongst these markers, one cannot help but think each one is not just a name and a date and unit number. Each one is daughter, a father, a sister or brother. Someone whose family prayed for each night. Someone who longed for home, of American sunsets, of holding a loved one’s hand again. Some came home and died after a long life. Others came home after sacrificing themselves on the battlefield. They are all heroes, each and every one, because when asked to leave home, asked to serve, asked to put their life on hold and don a uniform, they did so.
This sacred place is repeated around the world. In Dallas. In Gettysburg. In Korea. In small family cemeteries. At the bottom of the Honolulu Bay. In an unmarked grave in Southeast Asia. Each one a monument to an ordinary man or woman who did extraordinary things, who made an extraordinary decision to serve our country and each of us.
When you go out today to go to the pool or the lake or the family barbeque, stop and think about this. Standing outside your door there are tens of thousands of men and women, each one represented by a marker, standing around you, facing the world. Each one ready to offer a hand to a friend and protection against the foe. Each one our guardian. Each one standing there, as sentinels for our freedom and liberty, and as sentinels for the oppressed, the hungry, the persecuted.
On this Memorial Day, let us remember these silent sentinels. Let us remember the mothers and fathers, who have knelt beside the gravestones and weep for their child. Let us remember the children of the fallen, especially of the young ones, whose memories of their parent have been from photographs and stories. Let us remember the spouses of the fallen, who hearts were torn first by the physical separation from their beloved, and then by death. Let us remember all of them.
Today, we invite you to pause, for just a moment, and give thanks to all those represented by those headstones and let us strive to always be worthy, as persons and as a country, of their sacrifice. Thank you to all those who have served, to their families, and to those who paid the ultimate price for our sake.