by Tyson Ernst
I looked out the window of the charter bus as it made its way through the lanes of Arlington National Cemetery. And as I gazed out at the rows and rows of white, the tears rolled. Because I remembered. I remembered those I served with who never made it back. I remembered those I served with who did make it back, but not without scars, both visible and invisible. And I remembered those who never went, and yet gave those who did the vital support needed to continue on. And I wept.
I remember being a 16-year-old boy being excited to play Army as the recruiter filled my head with images of dollars I could never get in a part-time job, and war was something on the big screen. I was born during the Vietnam War, but not old enough to remember the nightly totals of fallen soldiers given at the end of the national news broadcast. I remember wondering if I made a mistake as I stood with so many others in the MEPS center and swore an oath to defend the constitution, because I wanted to go to college and now I was off to learn to handle a rifle and operate heavy weapons. I remember the feel of spit as it flew from the drill sergeant’s mouth while screaming at me from only inches away. And I remember the day it changed; the day they approached me to leave behind the fearful boy and become something else.
Looking out that bus window, I catch my reflection in the glass as it is superimposed over the view of so many of my brothers and sisters as they lay in final rest. I see the fields of green grass sketched with endless lines of white and my image is among them, and I wish sometimes I could not remember. I think back to those tears and wonder who they are for. Are they for those who gave their life in the cause of American ideals? Are they for the boy who died that day in the humid Georgia woods? Or are they for the man who came back and remembers it all?
Veterans Day is Friday, November 11. Please hug your veterans tight every day.