Arlington National Cemetery. I didn't know any of them. There were thousands. Hundreds of thousands.
John. Robert. Charles. William. Unknown… Not one did I know personally.
I had never seen them. Never met them. I had known of friends who experienced deep loss with relatives buried there. Devastating stories of unimaginable heartbreak and many times I had prayed for those families. But, personally, I had known not one. I did not know their hair color, their mothers, childhood best friends, or family pets. I knew nothing of their likes, dislikes, how they laughed, the tone of their voice, nor their future dreams. Were they tall or short? Broad-shouldered? There were so many of them. Did they like sports or the arts? I didn't know. Not one.
But as I stood there — silent tears filling eyes that scanned rows and rows of white marble cold upon warm, vibrant grass — it occurred to me that they had known me. All of them. Oh so well. And they knew you too.
They had thought of me often, and they thought of you. From the very first moment they considered the armed forces they thought of me. They knew I would want to walk freely outside, taking deep breaths of freshly clipped grass giving the sweet fragrance of spring, face turned toward the warmth of the sun. They knew I would value leisurely picnics and rides on playground swings; that I would need work opportunities and that my children would need college; and that someone would have to ensure that I was given those chances.
So they enlisted. Through their training long — when muscles ached and goals were questioned — you would no doubt pop into their minds and remind them why they had chosen such a difficult path. It was important to them that your baby boy or girl lie fast asleep in sure safety at night in their beds; that juicy watermelon and backyard barbecues filled each summertime with joy and laughter; that freedom rang as a sweet melodious tune connecting all of us Americans together.
I am certain that when they arrived to their first place stationed, far from home and family — nights long and eerily quiet, pondering the unknown tasks that lay ahead with immeasurable consequences — I am certain that I came to mind in gentle reassurance that there was a reason for such madness. That their risk was for a great reward, so that others like me and you could have abundant, free life that would last for generations. Even though I consider myself selfish and unworthy, I am ever so over-abounding in thanks. I am so thankful that they knew me. Knew that I would want to live my life the way I see fit: with freedom of expression and freedom of speech. They knew that you have a vision for raising your family that matches your convictions. Can you even begin to imagine that their knowledge of the importance of freedom to regular people such as you and I, and their conviction to provide it, was somehow able to outweigh the roar of fear they must've heard in each battle cry? How could I be so important to someone I have never even known?
I was humbled and proud just to stand in that place.
To every name and every name missing …
To you, your family and your friends who have sacrificed more than I can even comprehend, words fail to express my gratitude. Thank you for allowing me to visit with you today. I will always think of and remember you and your gift to me. And I want you to know that I know you now… every one. You are my American Heroes.
An Unknown Citizen
Breanna Mueller is a busy mom to two beautiful boys and a stay-at-home wife to one traveling husband. She calls the sands of Virginia Beach home, and has a passion for encouraging others through words and pictures shared on this incredible tool we call social media.