I had signed up for a moonlight monument tour on Friday and almost didn't go because I wasn't feeling that well. A new friend, Jason offered to drive so that I could attend and still take my vicodin. We were able to see a number of monuments via an open-air bus and made several stops at the major monuments. Having seen many of them during the day, they are a spectacular sight at night. Our bus driver was both gregarious and knowledgeable and ensured that we all had a great time. Having South Carolina roots, he was also a Gamecocks fan. We were able to see the Marine Corps Monument, the Vietnam and Korean Memorials, the MLK Memorial, and several others.
A humbling sight
On Saturday, several of my classmates and I drove to D.C. to see the Smithsonian Natural History Museum and Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington was awe-inspiring. It is one thing to know that we have lost over a million American lives in wars over the years. It is quite another thing to walk through rows and rows of graves and to know that you have only seen a fraction. We were able to watch the changing of the guard as well as a wreath ceremony. The Old Guard was phenomenal. The care and precision that they demonstrate is almost inhuman, and they perform their ritual every hour of every day, around the clock, regardless of weather conditions.
Precision and dedication at its best
As far as the eye could see and beyond
On Sunday, twelve of us drove back to D.C. to participate in the Run to Remember 5k at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. In addition to a registration fee, each runner was required to raise an additional $54 to raise awareness of the fact that, on average, a police officer is killed in the line of duty every 54 hours. Proceeds from the event will support the building of the National Law Enforcement Museum which is under construction near the memorial. I can't imagine a better experience for my first 5k. Several of us ran as a unified group offering encouragement and enjoying the scenery of our nation's capital. After the race, we were able to spend some time at the memorial, and I was able to locate the names of several officers from South Carolina who have paid the ultimate price.
The view from the course
Approaching the finish line
On Wednesday, we completed our second challenge run, the "Tin Man Trot." While the run was only 2.8 miles, we took periodic "breaks" from the run to perform lunges, bear crawls, pushups, and burpies. The spirit of camaraderie that I observed last week continued with officers providing encouragement to one another and ensuring the last runner completed the run to a cheering crowd. In keeping with the somber theme of the week, we learned that the police chief of one of our international classmates had been assassinated.
Later that evening, our entire session returned to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial for a special ceremony. The ceremony included an honor guard, pipe and drums, and a roll call ceremony. A roll call ceremony is where the names of fallen officers are read off to signify their end of watch. Several classmates read names of coworkers who have been killed this year. One officer had lost a partner and several had lost close personal friends. The incidents served as somber reminders of the dangers of this profession, what's really important in life, and the need to make every day count.
Entering the Capital for the ceremony
Just prior to the laying of the wreath
The SC Delegation - Asst. Chief Scoggins (Winthrop), me, Lt. Morrison (West Columbia)
So, back to my tooth. Not such a big deal after all. As I sit here with my temporary filling away from my family, I think about how much worse other people have it. Start on one end of the spectrum. I miss my family but am able to speak to them on the phone every night and with FaceTime can even see them during our conversations. I will see them over the holiday weekends, and they are only a seven hour drive away. My international friends have to carve out a moment after lunch to speak with their families (if they wait until after class their families are sleeping because of the time difference). They can't go home on weekends because of the cost of airfare. Many of their families will not even be able to attend graduation in December. Still, we are all here voluntarily having tremendous personal and professional opportunities presented to us. To go one step further, I think about the military families where separation is a part of life for months or more at a time - the troops who miss their families but are also living in tents, eating MREs, with little to no communication with their families. Still, we have our health. Now, go to the other end of the spectrum of sacrifice. I think about the officers on the memorial wall and the soldiers' graves at Arlington and elsewhere - those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of others. Yeah, my tooth is feeling much better. It's all about perspective...