May 30, 2011

A Memorial Day Rock: Marble

Posted by Evelyn Mervine

Marble headstones at Arlington National Cemetery.
Photo taken from Wikipedia here.

On Memorial Day I always remember the trips I’ve taken to Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA. I still remember my first visit to the cemetery. I was seventeen and applying to the United States Naval Academy. I was down in Washington, DC for the Naval Academy’s Summer Seminar, an intense week that gives Naval Academy applicants a taste of what it’s like to be a Midshipman. After hours of early morning PT with Navy Seals, fitness tests, mini courses, and serious hazing, the visit to Arlington was relaxing in a way. However, seeing row upon row of white marble tombstones also made me wonder if I really wanted to attend the Naval Academy. Was I cut out for this? Was I going to be able to spend enough time doing the science I love so much? Most importantly, was I willing to sacrifice for my country? Make the ultimate sacrifice?

I was admitted– early action– to the Naval Academy, and I almost went there. Some days I regret my decision to attend Dartmouth rather than the Naval Academy, and I wonder how different my life would have been if  had become a Midshipman. I would be stronger, I know. Tougher. Probably less self-centered and selfish. I tell myself that I turned down the Naval Academy because I wasn’t going to be able to do enough science as a Naval Officer, but I know that’s not a complete explanation. I know that I also turned down the Naval Academy because I was afraid. Afraid of war, of being mistreated as a woman, of a minimum eight year commitment, of not being able to follow an order I disagreed with, of fighting in a war I disagreed with, of danger, of violence, of death.

I may have turned down the opportunity to serve my country in the Navy, but I grew up in a military family. Many of my loved ones have served and still serve their country. My grandfather and father were both Naval Officers, and my cousin currently serves in the Air Force. Actually, the Mervine Family has a long history of military service, dating back to Rear Admiral William Mervine. There’s even a Fort Mervine out in California.

I was too afraid to serve and sacrifice for my country, but there are thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people who were not afraid. Or maybe they were afraid, but they served– and sometimes died– anyway. Whenever I am down in the Washington, DC area, I try to make a point of visiting Arlington National Cemetery. Standing amongst thousands of matching marble headstones, I feel sadness, pain, and pride for all those who served and died for the United States of America. I may not agree with all of the wars in which these soldiers fought and died, but I still feel grateful for and humbled by the countless soldiers who sacrificed their lives. To all those soldiers– at Arlington and elsewhere– thank you. We remember you.

Christmas wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery, December 2005.
Photo taken from Wikipedia here.