We agreed that we had to do something this weekend to impart the meaning of Memorial Day to the kids. Living in a military town, there were lots of places we could go – we opted for Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery next to Cabrillo National Monument and the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. After church yesterday, we headed for Point Loma, grateful that the May Gray had broken up, a nice breeze was blowing and the sun was shining.
We drove past the cemetery to tour the monument and lighthouse first. There were a lot of people milling around the entire area, which made the experience feel more patriotic and momentous. The kids did their typical whinning about walking so far – so we periodically carried them, but mostly they loved the amazing views of San Diego bay, harbor, and the city skyline. It’s pretty tremendous from up there.
The lighthouse is awesome! Sienna discovered a cool map of the western Coast of the U.S. with buttons you push to light up the various harbors. We pushed the San Diego harbor button to see it illuminate, and then I pushed the Humboldt Bay button to show her the distance to my hometown. Fun little geography lesson!
After exploring the cliffs along the point (and repeatedly telling Sienna she had to hold someone’s hand and NOT walk so close to the edge!) we made our way down the hill to the cemetery.
Fort Rosecrans feels like a miniture version of Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. Each time we visit I make this reference and Dennis and I agree that we have to visit it together sometime since he’s never been there. Dennis served in the Marine Corps and is a very proud and patriotic veteran. We walked through the cemetery and explained to Sienna and Mateo that these men and women served our country and many died protecting our freedom. We said a prayer of thanksgiving for everyone who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and asked protection for the troops currently serving our country.
We gave the kids a little speech before starting our tour. We explained what we’d be seeing and how we expected them not to run around, yell, or be disrespectful of the cemetery. They obeyed very well. I’d like to think they’re just obedient, but I think the atmosphere of this place cast a spell on them. They could sense that this was a solumn and important place. Sienna and I looked at headstones and pointed out the husbands and wives and children. There were some that particularly caught our eye, including a veteran from the Spanish American War and several young kids of veterans.
As we were leaving the cemetery, we noticed one of the most recently added headstones. It is for a young man who died in Iraq. It was decorated with fresh flowers and we imagined that his loved ones had brought them recently – perhaps for his first Memorial Day (we reverantly didn’t move the flowers to check the dates on the headstone).
The reality set in. These veterans are each someone’s son, brother, husband, daughter, sister, or wife. The sacrifice of military members and their families is extraordinary and ought never to be taken for granted.
As you’ll hear often this weekend – thank a veteran for their service. I’ll thank my favorite vet. Dennis, you are a brave and devoted man. Your family is so proud of your service to our country. Particularly Sienna who just connected her Daisy Scout project of writing to the miliary with her father and responded “My dad was in the Marines?!” with a tone of shock and admiration. Thank you Babe for being the beacon of light that shines on our civic duty to pay respect to our servicemen on Memorial Day and throughout the year.