Place of Honor
I was at Arlington National Cemetery Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers yesterday, attending the hourly changing of the guard when I apparently witnessed a most rare event: the oncoming sentry failed inspection. I had never seen it happen though I knew it was part of Arlington lore and a possibility as each changing is accompanied by a rigorous review of soldier, weapon and uniform.
The inspection stopped at the point of the failure and the sentry removed himself to eventually reappear wherein the inspection picked up as it left off. This time he passed and the guards changed out.
As we walked down the hill I thought to myself about what in my life I would seek repeated perfection for. That is what Tomb Guards do, hour after hour and day after day. They are in pursuit of perfect precision if such a circumstance is mortally achievable.
Though I am limited to observation, guarding must be a “Zen-like” experience in the sense that precision, perfection and repetition is an inward journey of the mind and spirit. They guard regardless of the external environment: weather, distraction, time, crushing crowds or complete solitude.
It seems they seek repeated perfection as a form of showing honor, the notion that perfection is transmuted into reverence for the unknown soldiers they watch so carefully over.
Alas, the living are infinitely fallible. I felt for the soldier in his failure and the rather public nature of it until it occurred to me that though it happened in front of hundreds of people it was, in fact, a most private event, shared between the guards and the honored dead.
We were present yet invisible, witness to reverence being perfected, a moment at a time.
Photo credit: WAPO