Today is Memorial Day in the United States. It’s a day that marks the beginning of the summer season, and is celebrated with speeches, picnics, trips to the beach, and barbeques in the backyard. Many remember family and friends, and even people we never knew, for the sacrifices they made in the defense of freedom.
We visit cemeteries, especially the large national cemeteries, where the grave sites of fallen comrades are decorated with flags, and old men with their VFW hats and a few in uniforms that they can no longer button, pay tribute in silence, or by firing rifle salutes. It’s all very moving, and you see many moist eyes and fresh flowers.
Of course, not everyone who is buried in these national cemeteries was killed in action. Many lived long lives and died of natural causes. In some cases, spouses of deceased veterans are buried along with the service member. Still, each grave site marks the final resting place of someone who, at one time, was willing to put their own safety and well-being subordinate to that of their country.
Several years ago, I happened upon the grave of Timothy Sullivan, an Irish immigrant, who fought in the American Civil War. Timothy died an old man, but was presented with the Medal of Honor for heroism in defense of his adopted country. My first encounter with Timothy is described in a previous blog post.
Today (actually Sunday, the day before Memorial Day), like I do every year, sometimes on Veterans Day, and sometimes on Memorial Day, I went to visit Timothy. Since he died so long ago, I went to see him, partly because I thought I might be his only visitor. Today, I was surprised to discover that I was not his only visitor. On his tombstone was a penny. In fact, there were two pennies. As walked through the cemetery, I visited five Medal of Honor Recipients, and four of them had pennies, or small stones, on their tombstones. Someone, or several people, had been visiting and leaving a sign that they had been there. There are several stories about what his gesture means, as well as its origins, and you can Google it, if you care. For me, it meant that Timothy, and his fellow service members, were not forgotten.
On the fifth grave — the one without a penny — Carmen placed one. In fact, she spent most of her visit fixing flowers and flags that had fallen over.
The Los Angeles National Cemetery is located on the westside of LA, across Wilshire Boulevard from the Federal Building, adjacent to the Veterans Administration Medical Center, and the campus of UCLA.
I’ll leave you with some scenes of this special place.
For those interested. all images made with an Olympus OMD-EM5 and a Zuiko 12-40mm/f2.8 Pro, set to aperture priority. Most photos are at f5.6 to f11.