“It was pouring down raining and I was walking and there was nobody out there except one old woman…She was just looking at me and she was crying and whenever I would walk past her she would just say ‘thank you’. I just kept thinking one of them could be her husband that she never saw come home from World War II. That’s when what I did really sunk in.”
A Soldier Known But To God
The story of how this memorial began is one I’ll always consider one of my favorites. In 1921, in the aftermath of World War I, a special unit was put together to bring home an unidentified soldier to be honored in the nation’s capitol. Four bodies were exhumed from their resting place in France. They were placed in identical caskets inside of city hall in Châlonsen-Champagne, France. A soldier by the name of Edward Younger was chosen to go inside and place a rose on top of one of the caskets. That would determine which body would be brought back to the United States and interred in The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. On November 11, 1921, the unknown soldier was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery in a ceremony presided over by President Warren G. Harding.
From 1921 to 1937, guards were placed at the Tomb to keep people from being disrespectful and to maintain a degree of honor and respect. As stated above, starting in 1937, The Old Guard has guarded the Tomb continuously to this day. Respectively, unknown soldiers from World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War have also been laid to rest at the Tomb (due to advancements in DNA/forensic testing, the unknown soldier from Vietnam was identified and returned to his family in 1998).
Respect, Honor, Commitment
I have personally been to Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier eight times in my life. I can honestly say that every time I step on that hallowed ground, I gain more and more respect for our men and women who serve, or have served, our country faithfully. Every time I look upon The Tomb, I am immediately reminded of what it says in scripture:
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13, ESV)
The ultimate sacrifice that those men and women gave for my freedom is one that I will never be able to repay. The only thing that I can do for them is to live a life that does not take the freedom they’ve insured for granted. In like fashion, it makes me think of the scene in Saving Private Ryan when Tom Hanks’ character’s final words to Private Ryan were, “Earn this.”
To the American Soldier known but to God, Thank you! To those who have given their lives in defense of freedom, both here and there, I am eternally thankful. To the American soldier who is currently serving our country, Thank You! To this grateful American citizen, you are truly heroes and most deserved of the respect, honor, and admiration from the 300 million people you place your lives on the line to serve each and every day. THANK YOU!!
Rak Chazak Amats American Soldier! God bless you!!
* To read more on my gratefulness to those who have served, or are serving, see my post entitled “My thanks to the 1,343,812″