Wednesday, September 2, 2020

So Many People... So Many Lives Given... So Many Freedoms Assured

Fourteen years ago this week I visited Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial in Rochester, Minnesota during my run across America. The memorial is meant to honor the sacrifices of southeastern Minnesota veterans -- past, present, and future. The lovely park features a curving memorial wall, fountains and statues dedicated to American veterans. The Wall of Remembrance is a granite, circular wall honoring over 3,000 service men and women who gave their lives in service to their country. The Walk of Remembrance is made up of over 6,000 pavers honoring veterans and allies. The Trees of Remembrance are 50 sponsored trees representing every state in the U.S.

Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial is a place to honor, reflect and remember all Americans who valiantly fought for our country's freedom. By the time I arrived there in early September 2006, I had already run 1,927 miles from Cannon Beach, Oregon to Rochester, Minnesota. Stopping at that memorial reminded me that the freedom I had to run solo across the United States was earned by the sacrifices of countless service men and women who fought for freedom.

This was once again brought to the forefront of my mind when I made a stop at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia when I was only 89 miles away from the finish line of that coast-to-coast run. Arlington National Cemetery, which consists of 639 acres, conducts between 27 and 30 funeral services each weekday and between six and eight services on Saturday. The grounds are located across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. and honors those who have served our nation. Arlington National Cemetery is the burial location for more than 400,000 people from the United States and 11 other countries.

Last year, I wrote a post titled The Chaplain's Closet and the Symbolic Shoes of Sacrifice. In that post, I shared that in 2010 I was invited to visit the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany -- a military hospital operated by the United States Army and the Department of Defense. It is the largest military hospital outside of the continental United States and serves as the nearest treatment center for wounded soldiers coming from Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, it serves military personnel stationed in the European Union as well as their family members. More than 95,000 Wounded Warriors from Afghanistan and Iraq have been treated at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center since 2001. As I saw some of these warriors and the personnel assisting them, I was truly struck by the sacrifice of our military men and women.

With each journey run I accomplished -- experiencing locations simply on foot -- I gained a deeper appreciation for what our country's military does for all of us each day. In November we pause on Veterans Day to honor all of those who have served our country in war or peace (dead or alive), although it's largely intended to thank living veterans for their sacrifices. Memorial Day is a solemn day of remembrance in the month of May for those who have died serving in the American armed forces. Those are only two days out of the entire year that the country pauses as a whole to recognize, remember, and show appreciation for all that our country's military does for each U.S. citizen. I'll admit, my eyes welled up as I scanned the seemingly endless wall of names at Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial in Minnesota. So many people... so many lives given... so many freedoms assured.

Thank you to all who have served and are serving.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso