Hallowed ground. This often-overused phrase is used to describe a place where something happened worthy of memory. The reflecting pools at Ground Zero in New York come to mind, bearing silent witness to the twin towers that once stood there, and the thousands of lives lost when they fell.
There are others: Mount Siribachi. Flanders. Auschwitz. The USS Arizona. Perhaps the best-known hallowed ground, at least to Americans, overlooks the Potomac River on land once owned by Robert E. Lee, and before that, descendants of George Washington’s family.
Arlington House and its hundreds of acres were taken from Lee at the outset of the Civil War. To be certain he would never again live there after the war, hundreds of soldiers were buried in the gardens and grounds of the estate. Years later, Lee’s family successfully sued the government for its return, but by then the deed was done…no living person would occupy the property again. Arlington would become our National Cemetery.
Some years later, a special area was developed to memorialize those whose names would never grace a tombstone. A century later, an ever-vigilant honor guard troops 21 steps in each direction, 24 hours each day and night, 365 days a years. Through heat, drought, and hurricane, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier remains hallowed ground.
Closer to home, a memorial park has been built on the courthouse square to honor those who lost their lives serving our country. Once a year we gather to pay homage to those whose names are engraved in stone. Fellow servicemen come to honor, family come to remember.
Thanks to the pandemic, no speeches were given this year. A wreath was laid, a prayer was given, doves flew, “Taps” played. Soon enough the stones were left to stand silently again. But perhaps we took a little of that hallowed ground with us, and kept it in a little corner of our souls.