Leadership and Main

Bettering Others and the World You Live In

Arlington National Cemetery

arlington national cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery conjures up two unique feelings when you visit, solemn and majestic.  Few places qualify for that combination.  It is one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth.  It offers a place for deep personal reflection and a deeper appreciation for others.

Daddy Daughter Trip

Shannon and I have always been intentional about creating experiences for the kids.  Our daughter, Ashtyn, just wrapped up her Junior year of high school.  The real world awaits her one year from now!  Back in March, the two of them went to New York City, New York for a few days.

I chose Washington D.C. for our Daddy Daughter Trip (I will write more about the trip over the next couple of weeks).  We flew out from Atlanta early Friday morning and came back late last night (Sunday).  On my “bucket list” of the trip, was to visit the Cemetery. 

I had been there as an eighth grader with a large group back in 1995 and as a leader of a group of kids just before Ashtyn was born.  It was the first time I was going to be able to take my time and soak in the experience of Arlington.

The Walk

We arrived about thirty minutes before the gates opened.  As soon as they were opened, we were the first ones in the Cemetery and headed straight for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  They were doing some construction work on the roadway, so it took us through an extended detour route.  One that allowed us to see more of the cemetery than we had expected to. 

It was a perfect morning.  Blue skies, sun shining, and the air was cool and crisp.  As if the dark green fescue grass with the contrast of the white marble wasn’t stunning enough, add the red, white, and blue of the American flags placed on the gravesites for Memorial Day Weekend.  Pictures, much less words, don’t do it justice.       

In fact, there was a man who once said during a visit to the Cemetery that it was so beautiful that he could, “Stay here forever.”  That person was President John F. Kennedy who is laid to rest at Arlington.

Ultimate Sacrifice

As we neared the tomb, I was able to give Ashtyn a preview of what she was about to experience.  As we turned the corner and approached it, we became two of only four people there.  It was perfectly quiet as we watched their regimented cadences, steps, and flawless technique as the soldiers stood guard, then transitioned guard.

It is important to remember the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day.  Too often people confuse the two.  Veterans Day honors all of those who have served.  Memorial Day honors those who made the ultimate sacrifice. 

When you think about the ultimate sacrifice, think about this…that tomb is the final resting place for three unidentified soldiers.  One from World War 1, one from World War 2, and one from the Korean War.  As tragic as the reality is that no one was able to identify the soldiers.  Those unidentified individuals WILLINGLY made a sacrifice on behalf of you and I and will never be recognized for it by name.  That is the ultimate sacrifice. 


Typically, my writing style is to find leadership lessons under each subheading.  With this one, here are four leadership lessons I hope you take away from this post about our visit to Arlington National Cemetery:

1.  Be constantly grateful for those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
2.  Give your life away to others through service, it is a worthy and noble cause. 
3.  Find spaces and places for deep reflection.
4.  Create memorable experiences with those you love.

For more leadership lessons from Memorial Day, check out these previous Leadership and Main posts:  Unfinished Stories, Would I Give My Life for Others, and Some Gave All

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