Sacred Duty: A Soldier’s Tour at Arlington National Cemetery

Every headstone at Arlington tells a story. These are tales of heroes, I thought, as I placed the toe of my combat boot against the white marble. I pulled a miniature American flag out of my assault pack and pushed it three inches into the ground at my heel. I stepped aside to inspect it, making sure it met the standard that we had briefed to our troops: “vertical and perpendicular to the headstone.” Satisfied, I moved to the next headstone to keep up with my soldiers. Having started this row, I had to complete it. One soldier per row was the rule; otherwise, different boot sizes might disrupt the perfect symmetry of the headstones and flags. I planted flag after flag, as did the soldiers on the rows around me.

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9 Responses to Sacred Duty: A Soldier’s Tour at Arlington National Cemetery

  1. Matthew says:

    Flags in at Arlington is a hell of a day. The truck on the top of the miniature flags will tear up your hand, we used to use the caps from water bottles in our palms so it wouldnt suck so much. I found that the metal lid from the oversized monster can works best. 4/3 from 2011-2014.

  2. Timbotoo says:

    Very moving. Got something in my eye.

  3. Sigproshooter says:


  4. brighteyes says:

    In the mid-fifties folks in my home town still called it “Decoration Day.” That’s because that is what it was first called. On this day, as they have for years, my home town will gather in town and march to our one cemetery. Spectators will line the road. Flags will be placed in brass receptacles marking the Veterans graves by our children, twenty-one gun salute fired all honors given. Some thing added since I was a kid they march to the town bridge and after a brief ceremony throw a wreath into the lake. One thing that really brings fond memories is the playing of the Taps. Upon arriving at the cemetery one band member, trumpet player, would run into the woods. As the trumpet player at grave side played the Taps the trumpet in the woods would echo the taps. Pretty darn moving.

  5. T. Rose says:

    Thanks Kenny!

  6. the other other Andrew says:

    I have a friend, who before 9-11, was a tatted, meth-mouthed, foul-mouthed motherfucker (no, he didn’t do meth, just too much of bad food and no toothbrush.) Entered the service after 9-11, and was assigned to the Old Guard.

    Next time I saw him, he was cleaned up, full set of permanent teeth, into tattoo removal, and soft spoken. He said ‘They’ talked to him, even off duty, telling him what to do, how to act.

    Turned a roughneck into a stand-up man. He even decided to go career.

  7. the other other Andrew says:

    And the President and First Lady Trump went to Arlington to plant some flags before they left for Japan. Without making a production of it. They just did it. The Trumps get what sacrifice these men and women have made.

  8. Kimberwarrior45 says:

    Thank you Kenny for reminding us what today is really for.

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