Nov7MonNovember 7, 2016 Keith Flaniken, Southern US Sales Agronomist
Annually, in the 11th month, on the 11th day, at the 11th hour, millions of Americans pause for a moment to recognize and honor the selfless heroes who put their Country and its citizens ahead of themselves.
There are two important days in this first full week of November 2016. Yes, there is an important election. One that all of us can’t wait to be over. Our country has taken a terrible detour and has lost its moral compass. It’s all about me, power, money and everyone else best get out of my way. The other day is to recognize and give honor to those who sacrificed everything to ensure this country only has to endure 4 years, 6 years, or 2 years of a big mistake, by protecting the constitution and us, the American people.
My pause today is to honor those who truly deserve it, the men and women who risk it all for us to live in the safest, richest, most opportunistic, country the world has ever or will ever see. A couple of years ago I was able to spend a few hours in Washington DC for the first time in my life. The first place I went was to Arlington National Cemetery, which was a lifelong wish on my bucket list. As we walked the hollowed grounds, we ended up at the Tomb of the Unknown just as the changing of the guard was about to occur.
Witnessing this most solemn and formal ceremony on a briskly cold, crisp December afternoon is something I will always cherish. The precision of each step, perfection of each move, the overwhelming silence broken only by the snap of their heels and slap of their weapons. The moment is hard to describe, if you have not had the chance to witness it for yourself.
During the ceremony, in the distance, I heard a drum cadence. The sort of cadence that was solemn and mournful. I figured it was part of the changing of the guard but much to my surprise it was not.
The timing could not have been more meticulous. As the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown were changing, a military honor guard passed directly in front of us, just behind the Tomb. The horse drawn caisson with the flag draped casket was led by a military band and honor guard, and the sad and respectful drone of the drums beating in exact tones. Family and friends walked behind in a sterile silence. We could hear the horse’s hoofs whose special horseshoes created a sound unlike anything I’d ever heard. Their march echoed throughout the barren trees and around the white headstones across the cemetery. Gasps were heard around us as we were privileged to be witnessing and hearing something very special. It was difficult not to break down into a full blown cry. Someone recently lost their life on the battle field and were given full military burial honors at Arlington National. We felt like we were walking with the family behind the flag draped casket and the caparisoned (rider less) horse.
It was a sad occasion that someone’s family member, friend, dad, mother, or sibling was gone. At the same time it was the most proud-to-be-an-American moment for me in my lifetime. The changing of the guard finished about the time the procession passed. As the small yet respectful crowd dispersed from the Tomb, I could not help but wonder who it was being laid to rest just beyond the rise. A while later, as we quietly walked to the exit, we paused again as the 21 gun salute shattered the silence that engulfed us. That was followed by the chilling play of Taps. What an appropriate ending and show of respect to hear that single bugle echo taps among the heroes.
As we remain fixated on the election and the pending ramifications from whoever is brought into office…don’t forget next Friday November 11 and its meaning. Pause for just a moment at 11:00 am and give thanks to where we live and to those who gave themselves as sacrifice for others to live in such a place as the United States of America. We truly are a blessed people.