When I was a child, my mother would buy us red paper poppies to pin on our collars for Veteran's Day. I didn't learn until I was much older that the tradition came from the British in the aftermath of WW I. I had no idea what the poppies symbolized, but I loved their papery crinkliness and the bright color. And because I come from a line of military men, I was aware that honoring our veterans was important.
Today, when I visit Arlington and the graves of my grandfather, father, and uncle, killed in Korea, I never fail to get a lump in my throat when I see the rows upon rows of white headstones. My brother and I considered buying a larger headstone for our relatives, something fancy like those marking the graves of those whose families have eschewed simple white marble. Bu ultimately, we stuck with army-issue, simple and plain. If they're good enough for those thousands upon thousands of men who fought and died for their country, they're good enough for our family.
From our family plots, I can see the new sections, opened to take in the dead from all the wars in the Middle East. The lump in my throat disappears as I cry, openly. Arlington is both a beautiful and terrible place.