Avoiding Arlington


Nearly every year I visit Washington D.C. for training in cancer care or advocacy work that provides me with the skills I need to do my work as a therapist and advocate.  Every year I walk around the monuments, the capital, visit the restaurants and experience the power that you can literally feel coming from the ground there.  It’s like your being shocked at a low voltage from the moment you see the White House.  When I see the Honor Flight WWII Veterans sitting in the lobby of the hotel, I thank them for their service and sometimes, they cry.  When I worked for hospice, my territory included the Missouri Veteran’s home.  Sometimes, I had as many as 15 Veteran’s to see on my caseload there.  Walking through end of life with these Veterans was vastly different than walking the path with civilians, but that is another entry for another day.

When I’m playing advocate, I take the elevator to the basement lunch room surrounded by uniformed women and gentleman with more “lapel flair” than I’ve ever seen and it is simply surreal.  I smile at them, thank them for their service, then watch as they make their way to lunch looking like American royalty.  They go home each night to their families and put their jammies on just like everyone else but they look like some serious super heroes to this girl.  I’m star struck as they walk so straight to their tables.  I wonder if my son will work in the Pentagon like his uncle before him.  I feel a pang of guilt as I remember the thoughts in my head begging him not to re-enlist unless he can spend less time “over there”.  So glad I didn’t say it out loud.  I’ve no right to say it aloud.

 Each year I say to myself “this is the year I will visit Arlington”.  Each year I am unable to make the short trip by car or train to pay my respects to those who gave everything.  I am afraid I will just lose it and embarrass myself in front of strangers. This year will be different.  This year I’m going to pay my respects to someone who lost his young life just two years after getting married.  He was part of my son’s military family and this year, in death, he will give me strength that I need to visit this sacred place.

Today, the following Air Force servicemen were buried at Arlington, 50 years after being lost in action.  After taking off On Christmas Eve 1965 an Air Force plane nicknamed “Spooky” took off from Vietnam for a combat mission and never returned.

Col. Joseph Christiano, of Rochester, New York;

Col. Derrell B. Jeffords, of Florence, South Carolina;

Lt. Col. Dennis L. Eilers of Cedar Rapids, Iowa;

Chief Master Sgt. William K. Colwell of Glen Cove, New York;

Chief Master Sgt. Arden K. Hassenger, of Lebanon, Oregon;

Chief Master Sgt. Larry C. Thornton of Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Say their names out loud in your prayers tonight or on your yoga mat tomorrow morning.  Namaste’

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