The children of troops who died share memories of their parents and talk about coping with the painful loss.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/05/28/art.arlington.section60.jpg caption="Ayala and Avery Alexander examine the headstone of US Air Force Tech Sgt. Anthony Capra at Arlington National Cemetery's Section 60. Their father's headstone is just a few yards away. He died in Afghanistan months before they were born."]
CNN Pentagon Producer
After spending several days over the Memorial Day weekend at Arlington National Cemetery I was surprised to learn that this somber, serious place is also a heck of a playground.
I've seen little girls scramble among the headstones blowing bubbles. One little boy was fascinated by the knickknacks left at the graves. Countless children used the large expanse of grass near the newest graves of the fallen heroes from Iraq and Afghanistan as a great place to just run with abandon. While many children seem sad about visiting the grave of their father or mother, many others are allowed, even encouraged to play.
One woman brought a small blanket, an American Flag and a ball to occupy her young son while she visited the grave of her roommate who died for his country. The little boy probably too young to realize that his middle name is the same as the name on the headstone, a permanent connection to her mother's good friend.
I listened to children giggle, unfazed by the 3 round volley of gunshots that echoed over Section 60 from some other part of the cemetery.
AC360° Contributor and In Session anchor
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/05/26/arlington-cemetary-memorialday-09.jpg caption="A soldier sits at a grave in Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day"]
Another Memorial Day has come and gone: Cookouts, baseball games and parades. And that’s okay; but let’s not forget the real purpose of the day: To remember the men and women of our armed services who have died at war.
At Arlington National Cemetery, soldiers, sailors and marines from the U.S. Army Old Guard placed flags at the grave stones there. It took thirteen hundred soldiers three hours to place a flag at each of the more than 300,000 gravestones.
Thousands of visitors paid their respects, not only at Arlington, but at the Long Island National Cemetery, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, in Honolulu, and of course at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., and all across the country.
Gerald F. Seib
Capitol Journal, Wall Street Journal
The long Memorial Day weekend may be as good a time as any to ponder the question of whether the gap is widening between those who serve in the military and those in the political sector who help determine what the military does.
Certainly the number of Washington decision-makers with military experience continues to decline. In its profile of the Congress that convened at the beginning of the year, the Congressional Research Service notes that it continues a long-term slide in the number of lawmakers in Washington who have served in the military:
“In the 111th Congress there are 121 Members who have served in the military, five less than in the 110th Congress. The House has 96 veterans (including two Delegates); the Senate 25. These Members served in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War,Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kosovo, as well as during times of peace. Some have served in the Reserves and the National Guard. Several Members are still serving as Reservists. As noted above, one Senator is a former Secretary of the Navy.
“The number of veterans in the 111th Congress reflects the trend of a steady decline in the number of Members who have served in the military. For example, there were 298 veterans (240 Representatives, 58 Senators) in the 96th Congress (1979-1981); and 398 veterans (329 Representatives, 69 Senators) in the 91st Congress (1969-1971).”
In addition, the current president isn’t a veteran. His national security adviser and his defense secretary are, but most of his top advisers aren’t. And it’s certainly a safe bet that veterans are a distinct minority among the Washington press corps.
The question of military service at least seems more relevant at a time when U.S. forces are active in Iraq, Afghanistan and, to some extent, Pakistan. But does it really matter? Would policies be any different if the percentage of veterans in Congress were higher? The U.S. lurched into the Vietnam War when the percentage of veterans in Congress was far higher than it is today, but was that a factor in any way?
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/05/06/vietnam.memorial/art.memorial.cnn.jpg caption="Visitors scan the names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington."]
CNN Senior National Editor
I never fail to be moved by the 58,000 names carved into the black granite and the mementos left at the base of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
At night the statues of 19 troops on patrol and the faces looking out from the adjacent wall haunt the Korean War Veterans Memorial on the National Mall.
I'm less a fan of the design of the National World War II Memorial but you cannot deny the majesty of its position on the National Mall.
But on the National Mall there is no national memorial to the Americans who fought in World War I. The sacrifice of the American Expeditionary Force is owed a place of honor near memorials for wars that came later.
The World War I troops came to be known as "doughboys," a slang term that dated to the soldiers in the Mexican-American War of 1846. Explanations for its origin range from the chalky Mexican dust that gathered on the uniforms of American troops, the dough used to cook their rations or the clay used to clean uniforms and belts.
World War I began in 1914 but not until 1917 did the United States join the fight alongside the British, French and other nations against the armies of Germany and its allies. Several hundred thousand Americans, most who had barely traveled in their own country, boarded ships bound for Europe.
The Business Review
AAA predicts Memorial Day travel will rebound this year.
Far lower gas prices coupled with deeply discounted hotel rates, should lead 32.4 million Americans to travel at least 50 miles from home over the holiday weekend, AAA said. That would be an increase of 1.5 percent from last year.
“The good news is sharply lower gasoline prices and plentiful travel bargains have Americans feeling better about taking a road trip this summer,” said Robert Darbelnet, AAA president and chief executive.
According to AAA, retail gas prices average $2.26 a gallon nationwide, down from a high of $4.11 in July 2008.
AAA said it does not expect the national price of gas to go above $2.50 per gallon this summer.
The number of Americans planning to travel by car is expected to hit 27 million, accounting for 83 percent of those taking trips. Airline travel is expected to fall 1 percent despite a projected 4 percent decline in airfares.
Coming from a military family, I have always had a special place in my heart for Memorial Day. Taking time each year to remember people, throughout our nation’s history, who have fought and died defending the principles upon which our country was founded, is simply the right thing to do.
Even when we have been involved in wars that many Americans do not support, or wars that seem confusing, pointless, or lost, it has always seemed to me that we still should honor those who fight in our name. But it is also important to remember, that not only our troops die in war.
“And thinking about Memorial Day, one main factor comes to mind – 5 years, 4000 American dead, trillions of dollars, we have increased psychological issues with veterans, not to mention family problems, children with no parents, parents with no children.” A young medic said sarcastically plopping himself down on the couch.
He admits to being bitter and jaded. Nine of his close friends died in the last year, seven of them fathers. It’s impossible for him to see what for. He turns his pain, anger, frustration, and sense of helplessness into humor.
Its 12:53 in the morning. He’s about to head out the door on his fifth patrol in the last 18 hours. The men here are fighting physical and emotional exhaustion, drawing strength from each other and little else.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/05/26/vert.book.baghdad.jpg caption="Michael Hastings is the author of 'I Lost My Love in Baghdad.'" width=292 height=320]
Author, "I Lost My Love in Baghdad"
How do you live after tragedy? I'd never really considered the question myself until the months following January 17, 2007. On that day, the woman I loved more than I could ever capture in words was killed in Baghdad. Her name was Andi Parhamovich; she was an American civilian working in Iraq for an NGO that was trying to help the people of Iraq set-up a working democracy. She was 28, beautiful, spiritual, brilliant, born and raised in Ohio. Her killers, insurgents who claimed links to Al-Qaeda, have never been brought to justice.
I couldn't believe it happened(I say "it"—I don't even like writing the words to describe the incident, another word I don't like, which may seem odd considering I spent most of the last year writing about "it")—even though I was there covering the war myself as a correspondent for Newsweek. To this day, I can't believe what happened, really. We had planned to spend our lives together; we loved each other, love each other, and suddenly she's gone.