My heart was moved as I looked upon this stone marking the grave of Matthew Commons, one of the casualties of the war in Afghanistan. As I was photographing this stone, men of duty were getting ready for another funeral that would take place in about 30 minutes. What price freedom?
The temporary grave marker for Jason D. Cunningham was poignant to me. Fresh flowers surrounded this Air Force man, also killed in Afghanistan. As I knelt down to take this picture I felt that my knees had impressed upon holy ground. I felt to salute, to whisper ‘thank you’ for saving liberty.
This symbol caught my eye especially—the Angel Moroni with the trump. I could not photograph then publish just any stone at Arlington. For some, permission from family members is required. This one was the wife of a veteran of war and clearly a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Provincially I was told years ago that there were only three officially approved symbols for the gravestones in Arlington National Cemetery, namely, the Cross, the Star of David and the Angel Moroni. I was misinformed. There are 28 official symbols approved for the burial of our nation’s heroes, including a symbol for atheists. I asked my guide, who has worked for three years with the cemetery, if she had ever seen that symbol. She said, “You know, I never have.”
You all remember when President Hinckley announced in October conference that missile strikes had just begun upon Afghanistan. It was a sober moment. Just as sober for me was when reports came back that the first American was killed in action there, Johnny Micheal Spann, member of the CIA. Here his remains are buried.
Johnny Micheal Spann’s grave is seemingly obscure among the thousands of others around it, but remembered because we choose to remember him and the others who lay down their lives that we might live in freedom.