Grave of Sgt. Julian Chase, USMC at Arlington National Cemetery. Photo by the author.

In the midnight hour of May 30th, I received an email from a long-time friend. The subject was simply, “john - this is bad news.”

My friend’s son, her only child, a 22-year old Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, who grew up on 14th Street NW, a product of DC Public Schools, was killed while serving with an elite unit in Afghanistan.

This Saturday I paid my respects at Grave 10084, Section 60 in Arlington National Cemetery.

While my younger brother was serving in Afghanistan with the 3rd Marines, 9th Battalion in 2011 a friend of his, Sergeant Sean T. Callahan gave the last full measure of devotion to his country. I paid my respects to Sergeant Callahan, as well. Others had, too, leaving sacraments including draping dog tags for the Washington Redskins over his grave stone.

While the cemetery is visited by millions of tourists every year, it is the solemn destination for thousands upon thousands of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, family members, friends, and brothers-in-arms and sisters-in-arms who will never see their loved one again or hear their voice. It is without question our nation’s most hallowed ground.

On May 30, 1871 Frederick Douglass gave a short address, “The Unknown Loyal Dead” at Arlington National Cemetery. An excerpt:

Those unknown heroes whose whitened bones have been piously gathered here, and whose green graves we now strew with sweet and beautiful flowers, choice emblems alike of pure hearts and brave spirits, reached in their glorious career that last highest point of nobleness beyond which human power cannot go. They died for their country.

On this Veterans Day we remember the living and the deceased men and women who have honorably worn the uniform of their country.

Never above you. Never below you. Always beside you.

If you are in Rock Creek Park or Fort Reno and feel a gust of wind from out of nowhere, it’s just Julian letting you know he’s always got your back, front, and both sides.