This morning, Tom and I bundled up for our morning walk and headed out to the beautiful cemetery overlooking downtown Salt Lake City. As we walked around the veterans' portion of the park, I was struck by the precision and order in the arrangement of the markers.
We love to visit cemeteries and speculate about the people who lived and died there. Anyone who hasn't been to Salt Lake City might assume it is homogeneous, but that assumption would be incorrect. You only have to visit one of our many lovely memorial parks to realize what a vibrantly diverse population has lived here from the earliest days.
The styles of the grave markers are just as varied as the population: tiny or huge, wordy or understated, modern or old-fashioned, you name it. So I wondered, as we walked through the military section, why the government-issued veterans' markers are all alike.
I'm reasonably certain that the reasons behind that sameness are purely practical. But I also pondered the way the stones are placed seemingly at random. They aren't organized by military rank, the war in which they served, state of birth, or religion (as indicated by cross, Star of David, Buddah, or white space for the unaffiliated). Privates lie next to generals and Italian surnames lie next to Chinese, Swedish, and Greek names.
I was touched by the egalitarianism of the arrangement. One would hope that these service members were all treated with due respect during the time in which they served, regardless of their rank, station, or nationality. That hope is likely naive. But now, in death, each service member is given equal space and weight, with no man higher than another.
Over the years we have heard many stories of those who have served our country -- men and women, soldiers, doctors, civilians. Some accounts are thrilling, others tragic, and a few even humorous. (Just yesterday, Tom met with retired Admiral Jeremy "Bear" Taylor who had many such stories to share.) We are always left with a sense of gratitude, and we are reminded that the military strength of nations relies on the strength and courage of individuals who have answered the call of duty.
Today, may we say THANK YOU.
Tom & Alison