My grandfather, Francis Marion Grigsby, passed away last year at age 97 and last week we laid him to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. Even though it had been a lifetime since his service in the military, he was laid to rest with full military honors, involving a procession with a horse drawn carriage, a military band, and a firing party.
Having grown up in a military family, I am familiar with the sense of belonging and unity that the armed forces provides. It does not matter your background or belief system, you are unified by your service to an entity greater than yourself, one which has pledged to honor and remember you in return. While the military is certainly an imperfect institution, I have always been struck by its unifying principles and its ability to unite across boundaries that might otherwise divide us. I got a picture of this as I walked down the path of the columbarium wall and viewed all the different faith emblems on the niche covers and grave markers. This sense of belonging is something we are greatly missing today.
As we meet the great challenges of the future, we will all have to change and adapt in ways that we might not have previously imagined. If history has taught us anything, it has taught us that ideologies, ways doing things, and how we relate to one another will inevitably shift and evolve. We cannot hope to succeed if we try to undertake these challenges on our own. We must learn to put aside our differences and focus on the things which unite us and support all our common interests, a greater entity to which we can belong. If we will fail to do this, I fear we will not get very far.