400,000 stones…400,000 stones and counting. 400,000 memories, 400,000 lives and 400,000 reminders of all the brave men and women who gave their lives for us. At Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, you will find over 400,000 stones that celebrate the lives of so many people. Unlike many cemeteries, the stones aren’t just markers of marble, granite, and concrete, instead it signifies the people who were dedicated to freedom and realized that they were part of something that was bigger than themselves. These stones are tombstones and they symbolize their effort, duty, and sacrifice they put forth to embody our nation. The Stones of Arlington mean more than we know.
However, even though these stones celebrate life, they also represent a struggle. Today, every 80 minutes a Veteran is lost to suicide. Nearly 49,933 veterans are homeless living on the streets, bridges, and overpasses of our cities. And thousands of Veterans suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD due to constant stress from battle. The Stones are Evident and The Struggle is Real. These are the struggles that our Veterans are facing and sometimes it can be a bigger battle than the one they faced in uniform. Many have asked, “How should we as Americans respond to help our Veterans?” It starts by honoring them.
Now more than ever, our holidays such as Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day have been morally reduced to be days of recreation, cookouts, and many times looked at as just another day off of work. These were meant to be days of remembrance rather than just another day. These holidays demand more than just celebration, they demand our reverence and gratitude as we remember those who fought for our rights. It’s no secret that our traditions and sanctity of honor have been put in place for a reason.
After visiting Arlington on 3 different occasions I’ve found a new respect for our veterans. As you fly into D.C. you can see the 400,000 stones from high above and wonder what they are. But as you see them up close, you definitely know what they are and what each stone stands for. As we remember Memorial Day, let us remember the blood spilled, the sweat dropped, the stones erected, and the struggles that remain prevalent even today. The Stones of Arlington and the Struggles of our Veterans should spur us to think beyond ourselves and think of our fellow men. Who would have thought that a Stone and a Struggle would remind us of so much, what matters now, is how we will remember those who have given us their very all. God Bless our Veterans and God Bless America!