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  • Writer's pictureJason E. Fort

All the Untold Stories

Arlington National Cemetery

My son and I just visited Washington, D.C. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the emotional impact the trip had on me, especially after seeing all the various monuments and memorials that display representatives of all the untold stories.

The picture above is the perfect example. If you follow some of the gravestones around some of the trees, you can see that they spread out almost as far as the eye can see. Each one of those gravestones represents someone I never met; someone I never knew; yet they lived a life that was worthy of remembering them in America's most sacred shrine to remember those that have passed away. And there are so many, I couldn't begin to count them. And yet, in D.C., Arlington was not the only such place.

We visited the Vietnam War Memorial wall, on the outskirts of the National Mall. As you walk down past the memorial wall, the column of names gets taller, and taller, until you are walking past a section of wall that is taller than any man. And on this wall, there are names of individuals. All these individuals, whether they went along with the war voluntarily or not, gave their lives for actions that our national government deemed worthy enough to pursue. These men and women died away from family back home, and of course far away from the millions of Americans back home. And each and every one of those names represents a untold story, that really only God knows completely.

And as I sit here and type, my eyes fill with tears as I remember visiting the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. This one hit home to me, even though the memorial itself is built of very humble design, blending into the urban landscape of Judiciary Square in the heart of Washington, D.C. On the outer border of the Memorial are two walls beside each sidewalk. Each sidewalk is guarded at each end by statues of lions, under which there are words of tribute for those police officers who have died in the line of duty. Although the walls along the sidewalks are only perhaps four and a half feet high, they stretch the entire length of the curved sidewalks, and names fill the space in between, from the sidewalk to the top of the wall...thousands of names. Since I work in law enforcement myself, it hit me that the potential of someone close to me, or my own name, could be on that wall, and it made me appreciate those names even more. And yet I have strategically chosen a path in my law enforcement profession that lessens the odds of having to face a day where my own untold story would be represented - on a wall. I was reminded of Officer Allen Jacobs, of my own hometown of Greenville City Police Department, and how he was shot to death, and yet there were too many names on the wall for me to find him.

It seemed each and every memorial in DC that we visited, name upon name upon name, represented an untold story that I yearned to hear, even though my heart probably wouldn't be able to take exposure to that much heroism at one time. But someone thought it important enough to pay tribute in memoriam. And for that I am thankful.

So why did I want to write about this experience? Why is this experience any different than so many others who have visited these sacred places?

I think many others have shared the same emotional reaction to such places as I...but something occurred to me as we made our long way home via interstate and backroads.

Everyone knows about monuments in our nation's capitol, and everyone knows the stories of George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson, and the basic history of World War Two. Those stories have all been told, and told often. And I was in awe of such memorials.

Yet the biggest impact on me personally on the whole trip, the memorials that hit me deep in the heart, where nobody else can see; where emotions bubble forth that I seem to be unable to control sometimes -

the memorials that I will remember the most, for the rest of my life, are those monuments raised that are filled with anonymous gravestones, and named gravestones, and walls covered with names.

And each name or stone represents thousands and thousands of untold stories. We may never know but one or a few, a tiny fraction of the stories behind those names and gravestones. But God knows their stories - and although peace was not what ended most of their stories here on Earth, I pray God helped their stories, somehow, some way - each and every last one of them, find peace in the end.

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