Holiday should bring to mind words of Jesus

Published 9:44 am Tuesday, May 31, 2011

As far as the eye can see, rows and rows of small headstones stand, as if at attention, across the landscape of Arlington National Cemetery

One feels the somberness of these hallowed grounds while walking through the gates and along the sidewalks and lanes of these rolling hills.  A visit to Arlington brings to mind the words of Jesus, “Greater love has no man than this than a man lay down his life,” (John 15:13).

Every American should have the opportunity to see this 1,100-acre national shrine to those who served and died for the cause of freedom.  It’s located in Virginia across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., where our elected leaders govern this great nation.

More than 260,000 men and women are buried at Arlington – some famous like Presidents John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft, five-star generals such as Omar Bradley, and countless other soldiers, thousands of them anonymous.

On Memorial Day weekend, a small American flag is placed in the grass in front of each headstone as a red, white and blue salute to each individual laid to rest there.

A visit to Arlington would not be complete without paying one’s respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The marble monument sits on the crest of a hill next to the Memorial Amphitheater. This sacred site was dedicated on Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1921, when the first unknown soldier, who died during World War I, was interred.

Later, in 1931, a 50-ton piece of marble was sculpted into the capstone we see today.  On its front, three figures are carved representing Peace, Victory, and Valor, along with the phrase, “Here Rests In Honored Glory An American Soldier Known But To God.”

In 1958, an unknown soldier from both the Korean War and World War II were buried there.  The body of a soldier killed in Vietnam was entombed during a ceremony in 1984; however, due to advances in medical research the body was identified by DNA and returned to his family. The crypt for the Vietnam War Unknown remains empty.

Since 1948, an honor guard from the 3rd U.S. Infantry has maintained a 24-hour vigil with utmost precision and respect.  The lone soldier on duty walks back and forth on a 63 foot black mat in front of the Tomb. He takes 21 steps across the mat, turns and faces the tomb for 21 seconds, representing the highest military honor – a 21-gun salute.

The public can watch this sentry and the changing of the guard ceremony, which occurs every half hour to hour, depending on the time of year.  It’s an unforgettably moving scene that I’ve had the privilege to see.

The ceremony reminded me of the Americans in every generation who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our freedom.  And I was reminded of Jesus Christ whose ultimate sacrifice was The Ultimate Sacrifice to forever free mankind from sin.