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We Must Ensure Our Loved Ones Live On

October 15, 2009
By Jamie Probst, MSW

Today I am writing this article from Washington D.C. I have just had the honor of having visited some of our nation’s memorial monuments, including the Korean War Monument, The World War II Memorial Monument, and the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

As I walked amidst these monuments and the memories they contain, I was also walking through the lives and experiences of countless still living veterans who were there with me. Everywhere I looked were aged veterans eager to share their experiences and memories with others, ensuring that their legacy will never be forgotten. 

These monuments are quite breathtaking, and each was given my due respect. I am here to see them all, but I am also here for a special purpose. Roughly a month ago The Moving Wall came to our Chautauqua region, and I had the honor of meeting a veteran who was looking to create a rubbing of several names of people he knew on the wall. This man was unable to get a decent rubbing of the engravings on the moving wall, which are smaller and more shallow than on the full size monument. I told the man that I would be going to DC in a few weeks, and offered to obtain a rubbing for him.

So here I am today at the Vietnam Wall monument, with two beautiful and well defined rubbings that I will be sending to this man. It’s strange to think that the mere sight of a name on paper, rubbed in black crayon, could hold so much emotional power over so many people. It’s as if the appearance of the name is itself a statement of what they gave to the world.

My next stop was the Arlington National Cemetery, to see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The tomb, you see, contains the remains of three soldiers from separate wars who’s remains were unidentified at the time the monument was built. Although their remains could not be identified, they were still highly deserving of the respect and admiration of the country they served.

And there they receive it. For 24 hours a day and 7 days a week these soldiers are guarded by an honor guard that represents the highest level of discipline and honor to be bestowed upon an American Soldier. To see the ceremony of the changing of the guard is to be a part of a beautiful and intimate ceremony that demonstrates the highest peaks of love, devotion, and respect. The M14 carried by the guard is repeatedly stripped bare and cleaned. The uniform is pressed, its buttons, medals, and shoes polished. For that is what any person deserves who makes the utmost of sacrifice for country and fellow man. The highest attention to detail.

No one knows how to honor the deceased better than our military, nobody.  As much as these men certainly deserve such honor, I cannot help but wonder why we do not provide similar honor to all those we love and have impacted our lives. So often we center on a person’s death, and that becomes the focal point of our memories. We focus on the end of a person’s life, and less often on the parts that impacted so many others. I propose we stop thinking like these.

We need to think more like our military does. We need to actively honor the memories of the deceased. Our lives are forever changed by our having experienced the period of time that was a person’s life, not the moment that they were taken from us. Their values, their memories, and who they were are the things we must pass on to the future.

If they are so valuable to us, then we must pass them on to others…so that their memory belongs to everyone, not just us. By doing that, we ensure those people live on forever in the hearts and minds of all. Not simply in our memories.


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