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If you love this country, and every principle it was built upon, these past few weeks can be very special to you. We celebrated Memorial Day a couple of weeks ago, on May 30th, flag day was this past Tuesday June 14th, and just one week and 17 years ago, in 2005 (June 11), this solemn yet very poignant tribute to the soldiers of our country’s past, and future, was released by country music artist Trace Adkins.

The song “Arlington” has special meaning to Adkins and the song writers. Throughout Adkins career he has been outspoken in his support of the U.S. Military. Through his support of organizations like The Wounded Warrior Project, and through his music, his convictions are clear.

This touching song is narrated by a soldier who was killed in action, and buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The lyrics were inspired by the life of Tennessee-native Corporal Patrick Nixon, of the United States Marine Corps. Nixon died in battle on March 23, 2003, while trying to secure a bridge in Iraq.

One of the song’s writers, Dave Turnbull, was moved to write it after interviewing Nixon’s father about his son. Adkins told CMT that he’d wanted to record “Arlington” for a long time. “… this song came along, and I said, ‘Oh, there it is. That’s what I’ve been waiting for.’ It’s just a nonpolitical song,” he told interviewers. “It doesn’t glorify war at all or anything like that. It’s just simply playing tribute and homage and respect to the people who gave that last full measure.”

If you know the song, you likely have shed a tear or two, like me, every time you hear this beautiful tribute. It is such a moving song, that some people simply bow their heads to pray when they hear it, many veterans stand up and solute when their ears catch the tune, and some are so saddened by the message, that they can’t even bare to listen.

Whatever your view and feeling, we cannot escape, nor should we, the incredible sacrifice so many have made for our freedom.

When I was just a first and second grader, I had a wonderful baby-sitter who had a mountain of a man as her boyfriend. Artie Cole was his name. Even though the baby-sitter was the key person watching me, I absolutely lived for visits from her boyfriend Artie. He rough-housed with me, played ball with me, taught me games, and helped with school work in incredibly fun ways…he was absolutely my favorite person in the world. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t get to see the babysitter, nor Artie, for the next couple of months because school was out and, as a family, we always spent the entire summer at the lake.

Well school started back up again and we were back in the normal school year routine. One day, my parents went out to a school function and the babysitter came over. Thrilled at the prospect of seeing Artie, I asked her was Artie coming over. She saw the huge smile on my face and could see my anxious anticipation, and just burst into tears. I didn’t know what was wrong but boy I must have said, or did, something really bad. Later that evening we talked and she told me that Artie wouldn’t be coming over anymore, and that my parents would explain why. The next day at school, I talked to my friends about it and they all said that boys and girls that age did this thing called dating and that they probably just broke up. This saddened me a great deal but my friends said it was not big deal and that it happens all the time but Artie would still be around, just not with my babysitter.

The next day my mother explained to me that my friends had been terribly wrong. You see Artie Cole, this 6’4” - 250-pound green beret, had been killed a couple of weeks ago, in Viet Nam. I’m not sure I totally understood, but I did understand death and that I would never see Artie again.

I was just a very short time friend and acquaintance. I wasn’t Artie’s Mom, Dad, brother or sister, cousin, aunt, uncle, close friend, class mate, platoon mate – I wasn’t nearly as close to him as all of them were, but knowing he died really shook me – I can’t imagine the pain they all must have been going through. It was all so very very very sad!!!

Friends, I know you all know this, but Artie was only one person. He may have been my world at that young time in my life, but Artie was only one of the 211,454 people who died in that war, with another 1,584 still missing and presumed dead.

Nearly 3 million people have died defending our freedoms and our American way of life. About 400,000 or 14% of these honored heroes are buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Many more could have been buried here but families chose to have them buried closer to home.

I have visited Arlington several times in my life. It’s quite often that I visit Washington for work and I often drive right by the cemetery. Seeing all those simple headstones, perfectly lined in even rows across the land as far as you can see, always brings a tear. In fact, this is a sight that Congress should be required to view as they start every day in Washington DC.

Every chance I get, I go see Lee’s House, Kennedy’s grave, but most important and awe inspiring, I visit the Tomb of the Unknown. Last year this tomb ominously “celebrated” it’s 100th anniversary. Many people got to get up close and personal to visit the tomb, like no one ever before them has. But the pure, brilliant, choreographed, excellence that the soldiers demonstrate while guarding this tomb, non-stop, 365 days a year regardless of weather, is absolutely incredible.

We owe so very much to these men and women. We owe our freedom, our ability to worship, our ability to debate and question, our ability to be educated, to seek real opportunities…we owe so much more than being a citizen of this country will ever let us know. Simply look at most of the world and you can see what we owe, every moment of every day.

Thank you, Artie Cole, and to three million just like you. God bless you and your families for your sacrifice…You and the spirits of all our patriots have made it to Arlington!!!

If you don’t know the song, or just want to pay tribute by listening again, you can find it at this You Tube link: ARLINGTON

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