Poignant visit to the Capitol awakened patriotism at election time

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Arlington National Cemetery is awesome, and can be one of the most thought-provoking places on Earth. On Oct. 1, my wife, daughter, granddaughter and I set out to conquer Washington, D.C. At Arlington, our goal was to visit a few graves of my relatives. In the process I had the honor and privilege of witnessing a full military funeral at this magnificent place.

Any funeral with full military honors is truly a dignified and moving occasion. With my hand over my heart, a lump in my throat, and tears in my eyes I observed an honor guard accompanying the flag-draped coffin carefully placed on a caisson drawn by matched black horses. A band played solemn marches while muffled drums beat the slow cadence for the procession. Before the remains are lowered, a squad fires three rifle volleys and Taps is blown by a bugler. Finally, the guard folds the flag and presents it to the family.

When I first got to Arlington, it seemed almost like I was visiting a park. After the service was complete, everything changed. I realized that I was standing on sacred ground. Every tombstone and every monument represents a life. Signs of struggle and sacrifice all in the name of freedom are everywhere.

Of particular interest to me was the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. There is not enough space on this page to devote to this poignant ritual. The inscription on the tomb sums it up best: "Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God."

THE NEXT DAY I found myself at a protest march at the Mall. There were a couple thousand people carrying signs. One sign read, "Stop robbing from the middle class and giving to the rich." Another: "Capitalism does not work. Socialism is the answer." The best one read, "Where is the change we voted for -- UP my check. Change America now!"

I quickly learned that protesters come in three varieties:

- those who have true passion for what they are protesting about and are sincere and committed to their cause;

- those who are angry and have a chip on their shoulder;

- paid protesters. I was shocked by the number of people there who were carrying signs and were paid to be there. They made no secret of it. They couldn't care less about the cause. They were just paid to show up and march.

I recently had the privilege to be nominated and approved for membership in the OSS Society. The OSS was the precursor to the CIA. Recently I attended the William J. Donovan Award Dinner honoring Ross Perot at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

I was among the elite of the military, a Supreme Court Justice and "wounded warriors." I have never been so proud to be surrounded by so many patriotic people who answered their country's call, and I had the distinct pleasure of visiting with Ross Perot. He is a patriot in every sense of the word. I never knew he did so much behind the scenes to assist the military.

I watched with pride and honor as Perot received the William J. Donovan Award and joined the ranks of previous recipients Gen. David Petraeus; Major Gen. John Singlaub; Presidents Reagan, Bush and Eisenhower; and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, just to name a few.

A TOAST WAS OFFERED by my friend, retired Col. Andy Anderson. Anderson asked everyone to stand, raise their glass, and toast the missing man not seated at the Missing Man's Table:

- The table is round, to show our everlasting concern for our missing men.

- The tablecloth is white, symbolizing the purity of their motives when answering the call to duty.

- The single red rose, displayed in a vase, reminds us of the lives of each of the missing, and the loved ones and friends of those Americans who keep the faith awaiting answers.

- The vase is tied with a red ribbon as a symbol of our continued determination to account for our missing.

- A slice of lemon on the bread plate is to remind us of the bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land.

- A pinch of salt symbolizes the tears endured by those missing and their families who seek answers.

- The Bible represents the strength gained through faith, and to sustain those lost from our country that was founded as one nation under God.

- The glass is inverted to symbolize their inability to share the toast.

- The chair is empty -- he is missing.

The Missing Man's Table mirrors the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier: "Soldiers never die until they are forgotten." We must never forget the men and women who gave their lives for our freedom. Even the nuts marching at the Mall have a right to be there.

As the midterm election approaches, please exercise your privilege to vote. Our country is heading down a dangerous path. We need to pull together, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

I have tried to recapture my thoughts and emotions from my trip to our capital in hopes that it will awaken patriotism inside all of us. Please vote for those who will support and defend our Constitution. God bless America.

(The writer is an Augusta financial adviser and community activist.)

Comments (11) Add comment
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dashiel
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dashiel 10/24/10 - 06:29 am
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A beautiful column, Mr.

A beautiful column, Mr. Merry. Thank you for sharing these experiences and reminding us that soldiers never die until they are forgotten. It is the duty of real patriots to remember. It is also important to understand that real patriots can handle a difference of opinion.

johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 10/24/10 - 08:02 am
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Wonderful column Woody Merry.

Wonderful column Woody Merry. It speaks to the heart of all honorable American citizens.

gaspringwater
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gaspringwater 10/24/10 - 09:58 am
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PATRIOTISM, A MENACE TO

PATRIOTISM, A MENACE TO LIBERTY

Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill, and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others.

Emma Goldman's Anarchism and Other Essays. Second Revised Edition, 1911. pp. 133-150.

http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_archives/goldman/aando/patriotism.html

johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 10/24/10 - 11:43 am
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Liberalism, by any other

Liberalism, by any other name, assumes that no individual exists and therefore there are no individual rights . Everyone is the same....except the elite.

gaspringwater
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gaspringwater 10/24/10 - 11:51 am
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Men of libertarian views

Men of libertarian views crafted the US Constitution and it's Bill of Rights. No conservatives have ever been so enlightened.

dashiel
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dashiel 10/24/10 - 12:07 pm
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It isn't liberals who can't

It isn't liberals who can't see the difference between an individual citizen and a corporation.

chucktoons
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chucktoons 10/24/10 - 01:11 pm
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You are right. Libs see

You are right. Libs see everyone as equal and the corporations are evil. Want to work, that is great, you can support those of us don't feel like getting an education or developing a skill that would result in getting a job. Don't feel like working, it is ok, that evil corp and all those rich people who work there will support you.

johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 10/24/10 - 01:16 pm
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dashiel, I agree. Liberals

dashiel, I agree. Liberals have never seen an individual they recognize. Everyone is a group member. All responsibility is spread across the group evenly.

johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 10/24/10 - 01:18 pm
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gasp, liberals aren't

gasp, liberals aren't libertarians.

johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 10/24/10 - 02:28 pm
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The views expressed by the

The views expressed by the hard left on this site is EXACTLY why D.C. is about to have a big flush.

BobG
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BobG 10/24/10 - 08:48 pm
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"Patriotism assumes that our

"Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate." ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,yadda, yadda, yadda.....

.....Contemptuous, cynical, disgusting and completely uninformed. Par for the course from this individual.

Eight (8) days to go!

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