There are moments in all of our lives when we fervently wonder, “How did I get here?” The events of that moment are dramatically different from where we believed that life would take us. If 15 years earlier we could have magically been shown how our lives would turn out we might have mistaken it for a movie of someone else’s life. My life presents me with many moments that cause me to ask, “How’d I get here?” Sometimes those moments are good and sometimes they are bad, but they are all equally outside of my life expectations.
I had one of those good moments on December 12, 2015. I found myself in Arlington Cemetery in Virginia for the annual Wreath Laying Day. Having lived most of my life in Texas, the thought of even visiting the cemetery in my early days would have seemed unlikely. However 20 years ago I was fortunate enough to marry Kathy who practices health law in D.C. and Texas and my life plan changed
As you can see it was a special day with excellent weather.
There were thousands of men, women and their children attending this annual event. They like Kathy and me were there eager to honor men and women buried at Arlington who had honorably served our country in war and in peace. I have no idea as to how many of our fellow citizens who stood dutifully in line behind a legion of trucks full of wreaths were there to honor a loved one buried at Arlington and how many were simply there to honor strangers.
Kathy and I were there to honor loved ones and strangers alike. It was a bittersweet day for us . We had only recently been to the cemetery to lay to rest Kathy’s mom, Helen. She was buried with her beloved husband, Eng, who was an ordained Lutheran (ECLA) Pastor. The grave site is located on one of the most beautiful places in Arlington Cemetery, Chaplain’s Hill. The view from Chaplain’s Hill is back down Memorial Bridge directly into the Lincoln Memorial and most of the City of Washington, D.C. I never met Colonel Midboe, but Kathy assures me that he heard an early “call” not only to be a Pastor, but to do so as a military chaplain. I have always wondered if “the call” was God letting certain individuals in on their destiny. Wish I could ask Pastor Midboe.
We laid our wreaths on the graves of strangers and family alike with a solemn “thank you” and a hand salute. The sights of the Cemetery with the decorated graves were beautiful and the event was truly humbling. It gives comfort to those whose family and friends were buried there that the service of our fallen heroes will not be forgotten. Toward the end of the day, I looked across row after row of white grave stones now decorated with our wreaths that remembered the fallen and paused to wonder. Many of those who rested there beneath these stones fell in the prime of their lives with loving spouses and children left to mourn and wonder why. Some would say its God’s will and we should not question His motives. Others might blame the arrogance and ignorance of world leaders who refuse to or fail to avoid conflicts that lead to the spilling of the blood of their young people on battle fields. I have no idea whether it is one of these explanations or some other. Call it fate, call it the folly of men that led us all to spend a day together at Arlington Cemetery together on Wreath Laying Day. I suspect my fate is to join together with them again next year when yet more will have joined their ranks. My prayer is that those new additions to the field will have joined us because of old age and a life well lived and not from death on a battlefield.
There are services like the one in Arlington Cemetery at other Federal Military Cemeteries throughout the country. The website www.wreathsacrossamerica.org provides information on this day of honor and how you can participate. I don’t think you will regret it.