Tuesday, September 11, 2018

9/11 Remembrance - Arlington National Cemetery

It is now seventeen years since the Towers came down. I have posted stories on 9/11 since then. On 9/11/11, it was about my long association, as a New Yorker, with the World Trade Center. On 9/11/14, it was about the Pentagon Memorial and on 9/11/15, we saw the World Trade Center Memorial.

Arlington National Cemetery (16 August 2011)

I have not been to the Shanksville, PA Memorial yet, where the brave passengers of United 93 brought down the plane that was intended to hit the Capitol in Washington. However, I try to get to Arlington National Cemetery every year to wander the lanes looking for images and let the history soak in. Arlington is the final resting place for some 9/11 attack victims and many service members who made the ultimate sacrifice in response to the attacks.
I first posted a story about this grand and hallowed burial ground in 2011, when I attended the funeral of a Viet Nam era officer and friend. In the story of Col. DeShields’ funeral, the images presented were often cropped to a narrower, more panoramic perspective. Maybe it’s the way I’m wired, but Arlington emphasizes the horizontal to me. The white, marble, grave markers stretch left and right but only so high into the distance. The vertical elements are not as significant. Trees grow only so high and (to me) don’t add to the value of the scene. 

Arlington National Cemetery (13 April 2018)

I’m pretty sure there will be more posts about Arlington and the exploits of those interred here. When my Supreme Court Chief Justice Quest gets rolling, we will learn that four of the sixteen deceased Chief Justices are buried there. Between the visual beauty of the landscape and the stories connected to the residents, I think the ‘Images and More’ title fits this place better than most.

For seventeen years we have been at war in Afghanistan. Our longest war ever. It begs the question - how much longer should we be there? ‘Until we achieve our goals.’ And what are they? It would be nice to be reminded again, long after we blew up al Qaida’s terrorist camps and snuffed Bin Laden himself.

Arlington National Cemetery (13 April 2018)

They call Afghanistan ‘The Graveyard of Empires’ for a reason. Since ancient times, invaders have never gotten the locals to heel. Eventually, the infidels cut their losses and slink away.

One would think, based on the desolate scenery we have seen for years on the news, the place is not worth it. It has no oil or other in-demand resource (if you don’t count opium poppies), so why the interest? Way back when, it was the on the main overland routes between Iran, India and China…so the early conquerors and later imperialists wanted in to exert their power and control.

We just wanted to punish our attackers and restore a friendlier government. Good luck with that. Repelling invaders seems an established part of Afghan culture. They don’t call Spring the ‘fighting season’ for nothing.

This is an anniversary worth remembering. We have been at war ever since. Soon, there will be soldiers going to the fight who were not even born when the fight began.

McClellan Gate, Arlington National Cemetery (13 April 2018)

Yes, Arlington National Cemetery is beautiful…a photographer’s paradise. Yes, you can find the names of presidents, generals, admirals and other men and women who have played significant roles in our nation’s history. But you will also find countless graves of Americans who died too soon for reasons that I now fail to appreciate. Section 60, called by some “The Saddest Acre in America” contains the graves of soldiers killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan. I refuse to intrude on scenes like this with my camera but one can often see parents or other loved ones still grieving. 

Arlington National Cemetery (3 April 2011)

I can’t help but think of John Kerry’s memorable statement made when he had returned from Viet Nam and spoke to Congress as one of the Veterans Against the War – “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

Maybe it was not a mistake to invade the country to neutralize the terrorist bases. It seems to have become a mistake to stay there this long. While the offensives and pitch battles have abated, for now, the casualties now come from the people we are protecting and training. It’s particularly infuriating when our allies and friends decide you’re the enemy and turn their fire on you.

Sorry if this became an opinion piece. It’s not really a rant…more of a lament.

Rest in peace all who were killed on 9/11 and all who have given their lives in the wars since.


At 10:44 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

As always...very well written Ted! I too wonder about fighting for a people who know nothing but fighting. We can't change culture. Sadly our American society is proof of that.

At 5:54 PM, Blogger Ted Ringger said...

Culture is a strong thing. Parents teach their kids. Religion adds to it. History and prejudice keeps it alive. Hard to counter that. Thank you...for visiting and adding your thoughts.


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