I’ve been an American all my life. I’ve been to 15 countries outside our borders. I’ve seen our land from Mainie to California. I’ve always been glad to be an American. I’ve realized it’s a gift a precious gift to be able to live here. I say I’ve always been glad to be an American, but until last Friday I was just glad, now I’m proud. I mean “swoll” up proud to see my flag, to wear this uniform, to serve with some fine men and women to be an American citizen/soldier. The reason for this is a kind of epiphany moment I had standing on the steps of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I was standing there in my dress blue uniform hugging my daughter watching the changing of the guard. The reason for the “blues” is that we had just buried our friend, 1SG Bob Kuehne, in section 64 of Arlington National Cemetery. Bob was killed in a motorcycle wreck a month ago and his family asked me if I’d officiate the service. Its not something you’d ever say no to. We had a great turnout. People from SC drove up to DC at their own expense. I’m proud to serve with such. It really exemplified self-less service. It was a sad, but pride filled day. We were able to honor Bob and his family in the most hallowed ground our country has. It was humbling to say the least.
But up on those steps I stood watching the guard change. The precision is beyond belief. The attention to detail unmatched in the world. The honor and the gravity of the moment is hard to miss. I noticed teenagers acting like teenagers as they approached the tomb. They were just being young acting stupid. But when at the tomb, they stop and stare. To think that the tomb has been guarded the same way night and day since 1937 is an astounding thought. It is not lost on even the goofiest teenager. I stood there hugging my daughter, standing with my brothers. It dawned on me that I wore the same uniform as those guards, although not as neatly worn. I looked across the tomb and in the distance you can see the Capital of our country. It kind of hit me at once and I cried. I realized those warriors, those unknown soldiers had died so that I could look over that vista a free man. A free man hugging his daughter. A free man with friends beside him. A free man to worship my God. A free man to serve his country. It was not lost on me. If you have never been to Arlington National Cemetery, I encourage you to go. Stroll through those grounds and be thankful. Soak it all in, take a couple of days if necessary. Its worth it, it really is.