Arlington is America’s home town. We all come from there. Our veterans gave us the tools we used to build everything else. Before the pens of the Founders scratched across the parchment of our Constitution, muskets scratched the air at Lexington, Concord, Trenton, and countless other desperate battlefields. The valor of the soldiers who fought our Civil War gave us one nation, under God, and indivisible. The armed forces of the United States are a wonder unmatched in all of history: a peerless fighting force that does not shed blood for conquest, born from a nation dedicated to peace. The conquerors of previous ages would swoon with envy to have such a force at their command… and reel in confusion to see them delivering food and medicine to the victims of earthquakes and floods around the globe. Even the cleverest of those bloody old monsters would be unable to fathom how the mercy and humanity of our armed forces are precisely the qualities that make them invincible.
Every President should spend Memorial Day at Arlington, because to stand there is to stand in all the plots of home and foreign soil where American troops take their well-earned rest after melting crowns, liberating empires, burning the grisly totems of fascism, and hammering through curtains of iron. An awful lot of nightmares were buried by the people buried around George Washington Parke Custis’ fine old mansion. They have an indispensable gift for the President, when he comes calling on Memorial Day: the gift of humility.