Visit the Fallen

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Every Year on Memorial Day,

in lieu of fishing, barbecues, and mattress sales, I carry out my own version of honoring the spirit of Memorial Day.  The tradition is simple.  I gather up as many people as I can Courtney and a couple of bags of red, white, or blue decorative glass pebbles and we head out to a local cemetery.  The premise is simple.   I find a marked Veteran headstone and read the name out loud.  I clear the headstone off, and sometimes talk to them while I’m doing it, and then I respectfully place one pebble on the headstone.

Why a glass pebble? For one, it won’t become debris.  Flags fall over, flowers rot leaving behind primordial soup in an empty vase, and synthetic flowers fade before they crumble into confetti.  That pebble  becomes part of the aggregate, a remaining  token of appreciation.  Furthermore, in Jewish traditions placing a stone on a grave to serve as a marker that someone visited the site.  (You can read more about that here.)  It’s also a tradition you will see carried out at our Nation’s cemetery, Arlington National Cemetery.  I first learned of the glass stones in a documentary about Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery that was narrated by John McCain.

This isn’t a flashy dedication ceremony to the heroes that rest beneath us.  It’s quiet, simple, and respectful of the kind of men and women that they were.  If they could talk, they would be embarrassed by big shows of appreciation.  They would say something politely dismissive, insisting they merely hold the honor of knowing heroes but that they aren’t ones themselves.

I encourage you to take some time out of this weekend to honor the fallen by paying them a simple visit.  Leave them a token of your appreciation for the freedoms you enjoy and proceed to enjoying your weekend.  Like I tell my loving mother every year on Memorial Day, “Don’t thank me; I’m not dead yet.”



*This post is an update as I have written about this in the past.