Duty, Honor, Country

      I have an office on the fourth floor of our town home in Arlington, Virginia. Weather permitting, such as yesterday, I like to open the sliding glass door next to my desk. The ambient sounds below—the wind passing through the trees, children playing in the small park below, and birds chattering in the majestic oaks—have a soothing effect.

      On occasion, military jets pass swiftly overhead. When I hear them approach and am not otherwise engaged, I’ll open the screen door and step onto our balcony to watch them fly in formation. It brings back memories from my childhood in East Central Illinois when my father would take my brothers and me to watch the Thunderbirds perform during the annual airshow at Chanute Air Force Base.

Space Shuttle Discovery performs flyover above the Potomac River on April 17, 2012

     On April 17, 2012, twelve years ago today, a Boeing 747 shouldering the Space Shuttle Discovery flew not more than a quarter-mile from our home at an altitude of about 500 feet. Cool. It was en route to the Udvar-Hazy Center, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum annex at Washington Dulles Airport.

      Our home is a couple of blocks from Arlington Boulevard across from which is Fort Myer, a U.S. Army post founded in 1861. It is adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery, which affords a beautiful view of our nation’s capital across the Potomac River. Among other distinctions, Fort Myer was the site of the first flight of an aircraft at an American military station.

Orville Wright flying the Wright Model A in 1908 at Fort Myer, VA

      Four years ago this month, as the D.C. area experienced the first of several pandemic lockdowns, the loudspeaker at Fort Meyer began playing a recording of “God Bless America” at 5:00 p.m. It was an a cappella solo performed by a male vocalist. Sadly, they discontinued this practice a year or two later.

      But you can always hear a beautiful rendition of “Taps” every evening at 11:00 pm, as I did last night. They have been doing this for as long as anyone can remember. The plaintive, soulful sounds of a lone trumpet compel me to stop and listen—and to remember the many sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform since the founding of our country. Without their courage and selflessness, we would have nothing. More importantly, we would be nothing.

      And in the mornings, you often hear the sound of seven rifles being discharged three times in succession, as a twenty-one gun salute is performed for another veteran being laid to rest in Arlington Cemetery. That sound never fails to remind me of my father, a veteran of the Second World War, upon whom this same honor was bestowed ten-years ago next month. I miss him terribly.

5 thoughts on “Duty, Honor, Country”

  1. Lovely tribute. My dad served in WWII and was in Europe fighting most of the first 3 years of my life.

  2. As I read your article I found my eyes welling with tears. 28 years ago I retired after serving for 25 years in the US Navy and not a day goes by that I don’t long to go back and do it all again. Your article reminds me why I did it in the first place..duty, honor, country. Thank you.

  3. Wonderful article and a fantastic tribute to your father. Thank you for sharing. One sore spot for me is the lack of service in my family tree. This country has given us so much, and not long ago (early 1900s) either. On one side, it was my great grandfather that was on the boat to America. The rest of my ancestors would have arrived about the same time. With nothing and knowing no one, and they got an opportunity to start over and build careers and families and reputations.

    Because it was a sore spot for me, I felt compelled to enter civil service (there were other reasons as well). Was it a good career move, yeah, maybe. Debatable. But there was a feeling of having a debt to pay. And I know my 11 years doesn’t make up for what we were given. But I like to think my family’s debt is a little smaller now.

  4. Heartfelt tribute. My father was a WWII bomber pilot. He is terribaly missed as well.
    Been watching the Ken Burns documentary on WWII on PBS.

  5. Love this and thought it’s so cool Ft Meyer used to play God Bless America.

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