Drat! It is snowing again today. More than that. The dusting that was predicted has turned in a 2" accumulation.
In the face of all that white stuff I switched my
Austin-like "fixed engagements" so that I do not have to leave the house today.
I am congratulating myself for going to Arlington Monday - a bright and sunny day - rather than staying on my usual routine of Wednesday afternoon.
Not that I "knew" what was coming - I just always appreciate Arlington a bit more in the sunshine.
When I turned in to Roosevelt Drive I was stopped by a US Army bugler waiting to be part of a burial ceremony for a grave only a few feet from Jim. The family had not arrived he waved me through to park at the near-by parking area for the Tomb of the Unknowns.
From this vantage point I could watch everything from my heated car and not intrude on the family. This was not the time to run up with a cake. I would probably meet someone from the family sooner or later when we were both visiting.
It would not be a long wait until the ceremony was done and all would leave. That is what happened. Military funerals and burials are well timed. Our new neighbor was smoothly moved into the neighborhood.
When all the family had driven away I pulled down and parked near Jim. A cemetery official was still on site to see the burial to completion. I doubt you will be surprised when I tell you I stopped to chat with him. A new neighbor sparked my curiosity. He was a bit taken back but cordial. He did not know anything about the new neighbor's service record. He was surprised as I told him about a few of the others in this block of Section 35. When I mentioned the 1950s Tomb Guard - i.e. Sentinel who is buried in our section he perked up. And, here comes the story.
This tall strapping guy, who looked to be now approaching 40 old, tells me that he knows about the man I mentioned - "I know about him. I was a Tomb Sentinel." There was pride in his voice and it seemed to me he stood a bit straighter. I was obviously impressed. He allowed me to ask questions that just needed asking. Once on duty in the Army he is now a civilian member of the Arlington staff.
He served almost two years as a Sentinel and yes, standing guard at the Tomb is hard work, "But we train for it." And when I asked how they manage in the hard weather as they do, he smiled and said,
"Ma'am, it's part of the job. We suck it up and do it."
I asked about things he remembered most and he told me of being on the Special Guard that carried President Ronald Reagan's casket up those daunting steps at the Capitol. The Presidential Casket weighed more then 1000 pounds.
I could not resist asking, "how's your back?" He just laughed. And, nodded when I commented it must have really been demanding because "if one of you mis-stepped it would have been disastrous." He agreed but assured me, "that's why we train so hard. We cannot afford such a disaster."
He walked away to over-see the actual burial of the urn. I don't know his name - never asked it.
Building the story with another insight into the everyday of Arlington and her people is what matters to me. I told him I was a storyteller and tell a story called My Forever Home. He gave me the same look most people do - "crazy woman."
Yes, I am really glad I went to visit Jim on Monday. Sometimes changing your routine is a good thing.