On Memorial Day, Monday, May 27th, the Texas State Militia’s Houston Unit gathered at the outside gates of the Houston National Cemetery. Because our unit appreciates the sacrifices of the fallen, we set upon placing thousands of flags on their gravestones.
The scene was chaotic. Thousands of people trying to get to the Hemicycle, an imposingly beautiful monument at the center of the cemetery grounds. A man on a loud speaker reading a passage from some long lost warrior’s journal. Cars parked in every nook and cranny they could fit. Families trying to find each other. This was the scene. But it was all about to come into focus.
A breeze of serenity
There is something ethereal about a National Cemetery. Once the presentation was over, groups split up, the commotion ceased, and a new scene unfolded. The reverence and respect ever-present on the grounds brings feelings of meaning and connection to the past. Although some there have never served, we all sense the unity and purpose of our great nation as we placed, gravestone by gravestone, a flag on each plot.
The peaceful serenity of the Houston National Cemetery seems to come not from the beautiful grounds or the monuments, but from the now calmed and focused people there honoring its permanent inhabitants.
Because war is a disturbing and psychologically damaging experience, many resting under the manicured grass lived tortured lives. Memories of the horrors of military conflict are unshakable, and follow our veterans the rest of their days. Therefore, it’s fitting that at each stone, a prayer or moment of silence is held, the hero’s name meditated on, reflecting the contrasting absolute peace they are in now.
Over 85,000 service members are buried there and not one gravestone was left without a flag. Because we must not forget every sacrifice made, the attention to this detail could not be overlooked. However, as one looks around, one can see many plots marked with a name to prepare for its future resident.
This is when the reality of their sacrifice becomes suddenly real. To know that there are still heroes to be placed, and that there always will be, stings the senses. It immediately helps you understand who we are as Americans, because we are them. We are all charged to defend our nation. One day, though we may or may not lay here, our fight will conclude. We will one day retire to the dirt and others will look upon our gravestones and thank us for what we did.