Author Jo Huddleston

Sweet Southern Romance

Monday, May 28, 2012

Patriotic, Smiles, Sobering

When I hear the Star Spangled Banner played or sung, I get a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. I was blessed to see a granddaughter wear her high school's band uniform standing in formation playing the Star Spangled Banner. I could locate her because I found the saxophone section. When the band left the field the football team came running out. I found my grandson in jersey number eighty-eight all bulked up in his shoulder pads. During the game I only watched number eighty-eight whether he was in the game or on the sidelines. And I did the same when my granddaughter came on for the band's half time show.

And at graduations! I was again blessed to see those two grandchildren graduate from high school. Here also I had a lump in my throat and a tear or two crawled down my cheeks. At the end of the ceremony, as is the usual custom, all the graduates tossed their caps into the air. They were smiling and free!! Yes, they were free from high school to face the world. If they didn't stay at home they found what the real world wanted from them--work a job or go on the college or both, rent or mortgage payments, car payments, grocery payments, utility bills, and on and on. The big, bad world eventually hits all of us like a brick wall.

When I was in high school I had the opportunity to tour Washington, D.C. One of the sites we went to was the Tomb of the Unknown  Soldier, which stands on a raised area of Arlington Cemetery. Day and night, 24/7, a soldier in dress uniform walks across and back, across and back, beside the tomb. That soldier looks neither right nor left, up or down, but does his duty to guard the tomb. I watched those shiny shoes (and when I was there the military did not wear patent but spit shined their shoes) come closer as I stood there and when he was at the end of his path, he turned, clicked the heels of those shiny shoes and marched the other direction. The large tomb marker standing there was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to recognize the many unidentified soldiers who came home in a body bag, some just pieces of them.

I also had the privilege to stand at the Shiloh National Park in Tennessee where a Civil War battle for control of the railroad took place. In March 1862, the battle of Shiloh was over. Both sides lost a combined total of 23,746 men killed, wounded, or missing The graves of those casualties are each marked with identical small white tombstones. I saw those markers as far as I could look. Those markers that represented death of a soldier.

When my husband and I were in Hawaii we "did" Honolulu by bus. The island of Oahu is 112 miles around, which buses traverse continually. One day we asked the bus driver to let us off at Pearl Harbor. We stood at the water's edge and looked across the harbor. It seemed relatively small but on that December day in 1941 several naval ships were docked there. We rode a shuttle boat out to the pristine white memorial that straddles the sunken USS Arizona. That ship was hit by a 1,760 pound bomb and the following explosion sank the ship in nine minutes, entombing 1,177 men. After reading the names of all those inside the sunken USS Arizona, which was difficult to do, I looked into the water and could see a a rusted gun turret of the ship just above the water. In this photo you can see the partial outline of the Arizona beneath the memorial. 

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Shiloh graves, and Pearl Harbor were sobering experiences I'll never forget. To see those places will help you to prioritize your waking in the morning and your bedtime at night. But also you can include instances with family where you're full of smiles. The space I occupy on this earth is minute and peaceful. Let's be thankful for that and also never forget those who didn't have it so lucky. Remember those who are in the armed forces, those who protect and ensure us of a good day. 

Till next time ... keep on smiling.

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