Arlington Cemetery, Memorial Day 2010
For Memorial Day,  I decided the Shortlings were finally big enough to do something I'd wanted to do with them for a long time.  So I packed up the brood bright and early in the morning, stopped at the grocery store to buy a couple of bouquets of carnations, and drove down to Arlington Cemetery to remember those who have gone before us.

We left the house at 7:30 in the morning, so two things happened:  traffic was not horrendous and we easily found a parking space at Arlington (this would not have been the case if we'd left even an hour later), and by the time we got there it was already hot humid and miserable (this would have been much much worse had we left an hour later).  We walked through the visitors' center and into the cemetery and before we even got to the Kennedy gravesites, which is major section you come to, The Caterpillar was already asking to go home and/or just sitting down in random shady spots and refusing to walk anymore.  I knew we wouldn't last long, so we did a quick walk by Robert Kennedy's grave site,

Robert Frances Kennedy grave
as well as Ted's because I hadn't been there since he died,

Edward Moore Kennedy grave
and then we turned around and headed back.  We never quite made it to the Tomb of the Unknowns.  I couldn't see pushing The Caterpillar's good mood in the face of being ridiculously hot and tired.  I found a fountain and splashed some water on their heads and we walked back while The Dormouse and The Caterpillar each chose a few graves to adorn with their flowers.  

At gravesite of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and two of their sons
That was fine for The Caterpillar, but after awhile The Dormouse set her sites on live people.  She decided that she'd rather give the flowers to servicemen in uniform who were there and thank them than to leave them on gravestones of anonymous people.  So she asked me if she could do that instead.  I figured why not, so we set about the task of identifying actual military uniforms.  She initially wanted to give flowers to both a troop of boy scouts and a gaggle of ROTC kids and somehow I didn't think "Thank you for your service in our country's military" was perfectly appropriate for these folks.

So I pointed out uniforms of people who might actually have been servicemen.  When we walked in there were servicemen everywhere, but once she hit on this idea, they seemed to have disappeared.  She tried unsuccessfully to give a few flowers to several servicemen who were helping to direct visitors there that day.  They were all very sweet to her, but couldn't accept the flower because they were working and had no place to hold it.  One Air Force retiree took her flower, but it was clear he didn't really get it.  She also approached a man with a Vietnam Veteran hat and medals who, I guess didn't understand what she was trying to do and refused to take her flower because he was "not going to need one." I think he thought she was trying to sell the flower to him. 

Finally, I pointed out a burly Marine who was there with his young family, figuring he might at least get what a seven year old was trying to say.  She ran up to him and tugged at his sleeve as he carried a little girl about her age on his gigantic shoulders.  He turned and bent down to her, face dripping with sweat, dwarfing her entirely.  She pushed the flower up at him and said, "I wanna say Thank You.  For being in the military and keeping us safe."

I've known a few Marines over the years.  They are stoic dudes.  But I'm pretty sure I saw one's heart break at that moment.  He stopped, put down his own child and knelt down.  He asked her why she came to Arlington that day.  She told him because it was Memorial Day.  He asked her if she had someone buried there.  She said no.  "That's why I wanted to give you the flower," she explained.

And he took it.  

And he hugged her. 

And I'm pretty sure I saw tears in his wife's eyes as they walked away.