Every year thousands of volunteers place the heels of their boots against white marble headstones and slide small American flags into the ground above their toes, in perfect lines – over and over again, hundreds of thousands of times.
It is quiet, it is somber, it is humbling.
At Barrancas National Cemetery, St. Augustine, Arlington, or any of the 155 national cemeteries in this country and thousands of private ones across this land, nearly every man and woman buried in these hallowed grounds once spoke a similar sacred vow.
Many of them were only one apron string undone from their mother’s threshold when they declared the military oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
And six feet below in the sandy loam, they in fact showed “true faith and allegiance to the same” with the honor of their fight and the sacrifice of their bodies.
In fights against oppression and tyranny.
In fights for freedom.
At home and abroad. On strange lands and in murky waters. At sea and in the skies. In helicopters and tanks. On missions and in training, secret and known.
For you and for me.
For the love of their country and in defense of their countrymen.
In these burial grounds, sealed in the saltwater tears and grief of their survivors, there is more than the sacrificial gift they bestowed. There are thousands of names that with them hold lifetimes of memories as sons and daughters who became soldiers, no longer obeying the orders of their parents and principals, but orders instead of their President.
This weekend, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, children, friends, and fellow soldiers will stand in front of these markers to touch their names, to be silent, to remember…to hold sacred.
It is our duty as Americans to stand beside them…with them. In reverence and in awe.
And as dusk is enveloped by darkness, a bugle will sound 24 familiar notes in our national remembrance of these valorous souls.
The same haunting melody of “Taps” drifts across the waters of Pensacola Bay in the final call each night at Naval Air Station Pensacola.
The light in the world is dimmer when a hero lies down, but the former title of “Extinguishing Lights” is simply inaccurate.
For the flaming light of the bravest hearts will never be extinguished when burning forever in the memory of the grateful and free.