I’m going to try to put down in words the experience of this weekend but words just can’t properly convey the feelings I had.
Excitement, anticipation, joy, sorrow, love and so much more. Meeting with my friends, being in the most sacred hallowed cemetery, and meeting new people. The history, the lives, the stories of the courageous men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice, their lives, in service to our country, for our freedom was overwhelming, to say the very least. But know it was a wonderful overwhelming, the kind I love.
I arrived in DC early Friday morning and boy was it cold for this Flamingo! I made my way to the hotel and settled in (yeah, they let me check in at 10am). First, I contacted Diehard who I was to meet up with Saturday along with the Patriot Guard escort for the Wreaths Across America trucks. Diehard let me know that one of his brother’s from their Vietnam biker group had died this past week, the funeral being Saturday and so he wouldn’t be able to attend. No problem Diehard, know one brother knew you needed to be with the other brother this weekend. I was now on my own.
No problem, as this Florida duster knew the drill from last year. I am a Firebird, you know! I headed out to the local shopping area until about 2pm (actually spent time in the Borders bookstore…love the book stores).
Later that afternoon I met up with my friend, Chp (Col.) Whiz Broome at the Pentagon
. As most of you know he’s the Pentagon Chaplain. His deputy, Ch (Maj) Andrew R. Harewood took me on a private tour of the 911 Memorial which is a most spectacular, moving memorial. It’s a must see if you’re in Washington. The winter is not as pretty as spring there, but the effect of the memorial is strong no matter what time of year. Thank you Andrew.
I spent the rest of Friday afternoon visiting with Whiz in his office. We had a great time catching up on things. He gave me a most rare and memorable gift of two programs and pins. One was from the Pentagon’s Memorial Service on October 11, 2001. There is also a lapel pin designed specifically for this event. The other program is from the Pentagon’s 911 Dedication Ceremony for the 911 Memorial this September 11, 2008, which also includes a lapel pin designed specifically for it. There were only a certain number of these made and I know how one of each. Wow! I am so honored to have such a fine and rare gift.
Later Alexa (his wife) picked us up and we all went out to dinner and had a splendid evening. So good was the visit that I completely forgot to take any photos. I could kick myself, but that’s that. We have those precious memories though, which is priceless. Thank you Whiz and Alexa for a wonderful Friday of friendship and the great dinner at McCormick and Schmidts
. I have been blessed, indeed.
Back at the hotel this Flamingo headed to the bar for a night cap (or three) and to check email. As I was going back to my room I met up with three gals (Vicky, Sharon and Helen) who were also here for the WAA event. They were from Maine, had a vehicle and offered to let me ride to the cemetery with them in the morning. Great! I met them for breakfast in the morning and we were on our way to ANC about 7:30am.
Everyone gathered at the McClellan Gate just inside the front entrance to ANC. The trucks were there, the people were gathering, and excitement was filling the air. We were talking to everyone, laughing, having great camaraderie and having a wonderful time.
Know that most of us are dressed for laying wreaths, warmth and are just regular folks. There are some dignitaries there, the supervisor of ANC, and military. However, one person just stood out in the crowd. Low and behold it was Clark Kent and we wondered when Superman would emerge. He was a hoot! Now if this isn’t Clark Kent, well. hahahaha He stood around most of the time just like this photo shows. Once, we did see him working on the speaker. He picked it up and jumped back a bit when he realized it was “live.” Yes, Clark it does work. Where’s that phone booth? He was truly a classic! HAHAHA
I met up with Merrill Worcester, owner Worcester Wreath Company and donator of the wreaths. He remembered me from last year and gave me a big hug. He started this endeavor 17 years ago. There were only a few volunteers then. This year there were probably 5,000 volunteers. Awesome.
James B. Peake, Secretary of Veterans Affairs spoke this year thanking Mr. Worcesteand the volunteers for the continued support of our heroes. Later, I went up to him, shook his hand and thanked him. I told him why I was there and we talked a little about the MIAs.
We began laying the wreaths across Section 12 about 9:30. Wreaths were also laid at other prominent locations (Kennedy graves, Edmund Muskie grave, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soliders) The latter being done at Noon.
After all the wreaths were laid and most everyone had left the cemetery, I stayed to walk among our brave warriors. I walked and walked and still did not see everything as ANC is huge. I read names, their lives etched with only dates of life and death and their honors, maybe where they were from, their legacy. It was truly an honor to be among them.
I walked up the hill to the Arlington House (the Custis/Lee house). All the furniture had been removed for restoration, but to walk through the rooms of this house was an experience I couldn’t pass up. If you listen hard enough you can hear them, you can feel the joy and sorrow of this home and you can see the beauty everywhere. It was awesome.
The view of our nation’s capitol from this viewpoint is spectacular to say the very least. The photos I took really don’t do it justice.
To see the immence spread of graves across the acres of land is humbling. I walked down the rolling hills back to Section 60 to say farewell to Herby as I knew it was time to move on. I prayed, I wished him a Merry Christmas and told him I would be back. He has great company, you know. He’s not alone so I’m happy about that. I dried my eyes, for the umpteenth time, and walked away knowing all was well. I had done a good thing.
I headed to the Metro station and went in to DC. I walked up Pennsylvania Ave and got my picture taken in front of the White House.
I took photos of couples for them in front of the White House also. Having fun! I then headed over to the National Headquarters for the Daughters of the American Revolution. I’m going to join the DAR so wanted to see the headquarters. I got a private tour of the beautiful building. More on this another day.
I headed back up Constitution Ave and took this photo of the Washington Monumen
t right about dusk. Needless to say by now this Flamingo had been walking since 7:30 in the morning and she was getting pretty tired. Feathers were starting to droop. I headed back to ride the Metro to the hotel, via Pentagon City. Enjoyed a couple Wild Goose IPAs (great beer) and a dinner of Blue Crab, crab cakes at Harry’s Tap Room. I was sitting at the bar (best place to meet people) and met a nice young man from Georgia who had recently returned from service with the Peace Corps
in South Africa. He had just landed a job in DC, was moving into a rented room the next day. He told me what a great experience he had in South Africa and how much it helped him. Nice guy. I gave him the Metro pass that Whiz had given me ($30 value) as I had only used it for my earlier trip into DC. He was elated for the gift. Heck, I couldn’t use it.
I got back to the hotel and met up with other people who had laid wreaths earlier. It was so awesome to talk with all these folks. Everyone has a story that’s worth hearing.
Amazing the people you connect with out there. Just open those wings and fly a little. You’ll be amazed where you land some times.
I did a good thing this weekend. It’s a great thing to do, actually. I think it’s a must thing to do for each and every American. Walk those hallowed grounds, read the names, read their lives, thank them, pray. You don’t need to lay wreaths to do this either. These men and women are why you’re able to live free. So, respect our fallen, support our active warriors serving and our retired who have served. They are our American heroes. God Bless them, and their families this holiday season. Merry Christmas.
(Notice all the wreaths on the graves in the background of Herby’s marker? The graves now have wreaths compared to the photo at the top of this story. Awesome.)