Good family, good food, good times. Although we went to Arlington, VA and Washington DC for a sad occasion, it wasn’t all sad.
Arlington National Cemetery was the final resting place for my brother and the ceremony was truly stunning. He received full honors, which made us so proud. The casket, pulled by six horses, was draped with the Flag of the United States. When the military band played America, the rifle was fired and the bugler played Taps, you can imagine the tears. A really great part was that the flag presented to my mother was retrieved from Iraq by his close friend and was made in America. I didn’t even know that was an issue with flags made these days! What also made the day special was the number of people who showed up for the ceremony. Most I didn’t know, many military men and women Chris had served with in the past, family I hadn’t seen since I was a baby. There were even military folks there that had never met him in person, but had become friends with him on a military social networking site and thought the world of him. The Patriot Guard Riders, who attend the funerals for members of the US armed forces to shelter the funeral from protestors, also came. It was pretty great to look out, while we were sitting at the gravesite during the final part of the ceremony, and see those three guys standing guard in the distance. There was one biker who didn’t stand with the others and my mom, who will talk to anyone, asked how he knew Chris. He evidently had served under my brother in Panama and had just learned of the service that morning. He told my mom that Chris had saved him many times from getting into trouble and that he just wanted to pay his respects.
Meeting these strangers, who respected and loved my brother as much as we did, was a great thing. With some of them, we felt like we knew each other simply because Chris shared so much with us about his friends and vice versa. The pride felt by us all was overwhelming.
After all the ceremony stuff and most of the friends and family left, it was just my immediate family. Of course, we saw some sites and ate ridiculous food. We had great weather and The Cherry Blossom Festival began while we were there. All in all, Arlington and DC are great places….but I wouldn’t want to live there. The traffic alone would make me crazy.
My only regret after this trip was realized after touring the sites in DC and strolling through Old Town Arlington. I wish that I would have taken advantage of the time my brother lived in the area. He was a history buff, which I am not, and could have offered little details about the places we saw. He would have known his way around, instead of dealing with all the confusion and craziness. He could have shown us his favorite spots. Most of all, he was a good time and he would have enjoyed us being there.
Here’s to spending time with your loved ones instead of letting it pass you by.