Sacrifices are what we celebrate on July 4
You could hear the sounds of the water splashing from thefountain long before you came upon it.
Walking onto the monument’s grounds all was quiet, except forthe sound of the water and a few muffled whispers, despite theseveral hundred people milling around.
The newly-opened National World War II Monument in Washington,D.C., is truly a reverent place — one might say it is hollowedground.
Walking among its 56 pillars — one for each state, U.Sterritories and the District of Columbia — the reflecting pondthat anchors the whole structure, and the pavilions on each end,which represent the Atlantic and Pacific theaters, one can feel themagnitude of the sacrifices made by those 16 million men and womenwho served this country during the terrible times of the 1940s.
While quietly standing in a walkway area reading the words ofGen. Dwight Eisenhower inscribed on a wall near the Atlanticpavilion, I suddenly realized I was blocking the path of an elderlyman. He was being led through the grounds by his son. The agedgentlemen wore his VFW hat very proudly. As I stepped aside, Istarted to reach out to shake his hand, but I could see by theconcentration in his face and the wetness of his eyes that myfriendly attempt would be an intrusion on his time of reflection.The son smiled at me as they passed by.
Walking up the Washington Mall, we passed the Lincoln Memorialwhere hundreds of tourists lined up to gaze upon the panoramic viewof the mall and take photos.
We entered the grounds of the Vietnam Memorial and, again, thesilence was deafening. Hundreds of individuals gazed upon the namesinscribed into the marble walls that make up the memorial — namesof hometown boys who left the comfort of their families to servetheir country, never to return.
This was my first visit to Washington since the terroristattacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Washington has changed drastically sincethen. Security has always been tight, but now it is at a newlevel.
For the public, the White House is only a distant view withbarricades blocking every entrance. On Capitol Hill, one can nolonger simply walk the halls of Congress. To get into our nation’scapitol, the general public must stand in line for a limited numberof first-come-first-serve tour tickets.
While armed security is more discreet around the White House, onCapitol Hill it is much more visible. Heavily-armed security policewith guard dogs watch every move for a potential threat.
The attacks of 9-11 have undoubtedly changed Washingtonforever.
On this July 4th holiday, I cannot help but think back to theelderly veteran at the World War II Monument and the deafeningsilence of the Vietnam memorial. Today we are fighting a new kindof war — a war of terrorism. It’s a war that soldiers of days pastwould not understand, but they nonetheless understand that itthreatens the very freedoms and liberty we celebrate today.
Just as in World War II, Vietnam War and all other wars, thereis always debate as to the justifiability. They called it Mr.Roosevelt’s war in the 40s; Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon’s war in the60s, and now Bush’s war in 2004.
Freedom comes with a price — it is not free. To fully enjoy it,we must understand the necessity of fighting for it.
Today we celebrate those sacrifices made 228 years ago and thewillingness of those to sacrifice so that the future would bebetter for everyone else.
Write to Bill Jacobs at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, Miss.39602, or send e-mail to email@example.com.