I have an incredible life filled with many beautiful opportunities thanks to the sacrifices of men and women far braver than me.
Memorial Day 2016. I planned visit to Independence Hall with the goal of street photography among unsuspecting tourists. I came home with a few good photos and a greater appreciation of the precious freedoms we enjoy. Wandering about Independence Hall in search of photographs of tourists can be frustrating. I decided on a different tack. Stepping inside the Free Quaker Meeting House two colonial Free Quakers shared stories and sung songs of the time to a small group of visitors. Did you know the song ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ was a direct insult to colonists supporting a separation from Great Britain? Neither did I. Ouch! A few minutes later, I heard music wafting into the building which caught my attention. Stepping outside, the music rang out from Christ Church graveyard. The graveyard is the final resting place of Ben Franklin and notable figures of Philadelphia society. Walking past Franklin’s grave I noticed a Memorial Day ceremony with re-enactors dressed as Union soldiers and a bugler. It took but a nanosecond to decide to join the ceremony at Franklin’s grave. Entering the graveyard, I stood off to the side of the gathered crowd. I took photos of the re-enactors until the ceremony concluded. A guide spoke up inviting onlookers to help him place American flags on the graves of revolutionary soldiers and leaders. At each gravesite the guide gave a short description of the person then asked for a volunteer from the group to place the American flag. I had the opportunity to place an American flag on the grave of a 23-year-old Marine. I don’t know his name, the gravestone in worn down to a nubbin sitting above the grass line. I imagine he joined the Marines at Tun Tavern as a young, idealistic man who believed in this radical idea of freedom and self-determination. It saddens me that he never had the chance to live in the nation he helped bring to life. Yet it was his decision along with the others in this graveyard to play a part in creating the framework of opportunity and freedom enjoyed by Americans centuries later. When I think it over, there are no words to express my gratitude for the life choices made by this unknown Marine. The one thing we can do to honor his memory and of all those lost to us in war, is to live well. Be bold, take every opportunity, give of your talents, love generously and continue to be vigilant in protecting the freedoms paid for by those who came before us.
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