Grab your tissues.
It has long been a "mission" of mine to make it to Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery. I've visited ANC many, many times but never made it to this hallowed section of ground. On 9-11 last year, I was determined to find it and ended up absolutely lost in the acres and acres of rolling graves. When my family recently visited ANC, I decided to venture here myself and spend some moments in private.
The walk through Arlington is a tough one for many reason. Not only is is emotionally exhausting to see rows and rows for what seems like miles, it's physically exhausting too. I don't complain, because I know the heroes buried in the ground walked many more difficult, treacherous, and painful steps before me.
When I took the Metro from my house to ANC, I noticed a middle aged woman carrying bunches of store bought flowers. I presumed she was heading to Arlington, and I was right. After making the trek to the back of the cemetery, I was confronted with a marker that told me this was Section 60. For those who are unfamiliar, it is the section of ANC where the veterans of Iraq & Afghanistan, including those killed in action, lay to rest. It's the section where you see infants in car seats laying on their father's graves while their mommy clutches dog tags and reflects back on memories of more peaceful times. It's where you see mothers proudly nurture the graves of their sons, as if it's the only thing they can do now that they are gone. This day was no different, as I silently watched the mother on the Metro tend to her sons grave and make the most perfect bouquet of flowers for his headstone.
The back of the above headstone of SSG Christopher Jones.
Pictures like this were taped to the back of many headstones, painting a very real picture of the heroes buried within the ground. Faces, families, memories.
New ground always being dug for new graves.
Perhaps the beret of a friend who served with PFC Michael Joseph Metcalf.
I read later that he was 22 and KIA while serving in Afghanistan.
Mementos hung from trees surrounding Section 60, including this mobile of seashells with handwritten messages for someone fallen.
Aaron's wife Kimberly has been at the forefront of keeping her husbands memory alive as well as those who went down that day with him. To show your support for his family and friends, you can visit the Facebook page set-up for them here.