The blood they spilled has made our nation strong,
Their payment for democracy was high.
Without their courage we could not belong
As heirs of those who weren’t afraid to die.
They’re gone and yet, they actually are here;
They walk among us silent and unseen
To see how we treat values they hold dear,
And help us keep our liberty pristine.
That little snippet of poetry, by an anonymous author, embraces the notion that those who have given their lives in the service of their country leave behind a mystical presence.
Thousands of people have experienced this when they visited military cemeteries, especially the big ones, such as Arlington National Cemetery and the cemetery at Gettysburg. They have the feeling they are not alone. These people reported their skins tingling, and many have spiritual catharses.
This is an ancient notion, and many, especially academics, scoff at it, saying it is merely psychological trickery we play on ourselves. But it is so profound and so widely reported that it’s hard not to believe that soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who die in combat somehow live on in the spiritual realm for those who take the trouble to understand or feel it.
You don’t have to be in a graveyard to experience this. Some have told me they stand in front of the veterans’ memorial or the law-enforcement memorial in Courthouse Park, close their eyes and allow those whose names are carved there to speak to them in silent, yet profound voices.
A friend told me of a similar experience he had when visiting the traveling exhibit of the Vietnam War Memorial when it was in Chowchilla several months ago.
“I was so overwhelmed, I had to sit down on the grass,” he said. He said it was the first time he had actually experienced gratitude for the liberty he had taken for granted all his life. “They have given us such a wonderful gift,” he said, “and most of us don’t realize it.”