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FREEDOM IS NOT FREE

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This is by Kelly Strong@VietVet.com. 

We must remember for freedom the military pays the price with broken bodies, minds and souls and some pay the ultimate price with their lives.

I say Thank-you, May God Bless you and I offer a Hand Salute.

I watched the flag pass by one day.
It fluttered in the breeze
A young Marine saluted it, and then
He stood at ease.

I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud
With hair cut square and eyes alert
He’d stand out in any crowd.

I thought, how many men like him
Had fallen through the years?
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers’ tears?

How many Pilots’ planes shot down?
How many foxholes were soldiers’ graves?
No, Freedom is not free.

I heard the sound of taps one night,
When everything was still.
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.

I wondered just how many times
That taps had meant “Amen”
When a flag had draped a coffin
of a brother or a friend.

I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.

I thought about a graveyard
at the bottom of the sea
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No, Freedom isn’t free!!

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ARLINGTON CEMETERY: THIS HALLOWED GROUND

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This is from Warrior Scout.

I want to visit Arlington.

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On May 13, 1864, America’s most revered burial place was established on the pristine grounds of the Arlington Estate.

They are presidents, explorers, sports figures, judges, and admirals. And lots of every day people, too—farmers, teachers, and factory workers among others.

There are more than 300,000 of them—named and nameless, forgotten and revered, mourned and martyred, male and female, and of every race. With some exceptions, most share military service to their country and a final resting place on a hillside overlooking Washington, D.C.

Arlington National Cemetery, the most well known of the nation’s 130 military burial grounds, annually inters 6,000 dead—many of them succumbing to old age and disease, others just out of high school dying violently and suddenly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each year, some 4 million visitors go to the cemetery to pay their respects.

Fittingly, Arlington was born of the cataclysm of war and the country’s desire to honor its fallen soldiers. At the beginning of the Civil War, no one anticipated the carnage or had made arrangements to deal with the dead, who lay exposed on battlefields or were buried where they fell, frequently thrown into mass pits, unidentified and unclaimed. The situation appalled the families back home as well as federal authorities. In 1864 Secretary of War Edwin Stanton ordered Army Quartermaster Montgomery C. Meigs to site a cemetery near Washington.

Meigs recommended only one location, the plantation called Arlington, which before the war had been the home of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The federals already occupied the plantation for its high ground and had seized it for delinquent back taxes of $92.07.

Meigs also wanted to make the mansion permanently uninhabitable. On June 15, 1864, the day the government declared Arlington House (pictured below) and 200 surrounding acres a national cemetery, he buried 65 soldiers in the yard. That year dead and dying men flooded Washington from the pitched battles in Virginia—The Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg. Many of the casualties—both Union and Confederate—are buried in Arlington.


A sketch of Arlington House drawn in 1861, published in 1875
After the war, the government created other military cemeteries to accept human remains from “cleaned up” battlefields. The bones of more than 1,800 soldiers were gathered from the nearby Bull Run (Manassas) battlefield and buried in Mrs. Lee’s rose garden. More remains were later interred.

Robert E. Lee never returned to Arlington. But in 1883 the U.S. Supreme Court decided the estate had been confiscated illegally, and the government paid his family $150,000. By then, however, tens of thousands of graves ringed the mansion, and the land had become hallowed ground for the reunited nation.

Over the ensuing years, veterans of the Revolutionary War, the Mexican War, and other conflicts were reinterred at Arlington. It wasn’t until 1906 when the tensions of the Civil War had lessened that a memorial to the Confederate dead was approved; the corner stone was laid in November 1912 and the monument dedicated on June 4, 1914.

Today, the cemetery hosts dozens of memorials—to sailors killed in the explosion of the battleship USS Maine, to commandos lost in the 1980 Iranian hostage rescue mission, and to the astronauts who perished aboard Challenger.

The most revered memorial is the Tomb of the Unknowns (below), guarded 24 hours a day. The first American unknown was brought to Arlington from France in 1921. Servicemen from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam were interred later, although the Vietnam soldier was eventually identified and removed to a family cemetery.


Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. Source: Getty Images.
As did predecessors, President John F. Kennedy visited Arlington and the tomb during his tenure. A few months before his assassination, he toured Arlington House and remarked on its magnificent view of Washington, saying he could stay there forever. He now rests on a slope just below the mansion—his brother, Bobby, too—and decades after their deaths their graves (below) remain an attraction for tourists.

A who’s who of American luminaries lies in Arlington, including Robert Peary and Matthew Alexander Henson, the first to reach the North Pole; boxer Joe Louis and civil rights leader Medgar Evers; John Wesley Powell, who explored the Grand Canyon; Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall; Ira Hayes, a Marine who helped hoist the flag at Iwo Jima; and Audie Murphy, World War II hero and movie star.

Until 1948 and Harry Truman’s executive order to desegregate the services, the dead were separated by race; today everyone is treated equally and with honor, each grave marked with a simple, formalized regulation stone. Because of space limitations, ground burial at Arlington is quite restricted, but criteria for the new Columbarium are more liberal and extend to all honorably discharged veterans and members of their immediate families.

The cemetery features a museum, a bus tour, and visitor’s center, but Arlington is unlike any other Washington attraction. About 30 people are interred on the grounds each weekday. Tourists may look down a slope or along a tree-shrouded road and watch a caisson and flag-draped casket passing by or hear the playing of taps and the sharp report of a rifle volley—all sobering reminders of service, conflict, and mortality.

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