Commonwealth Journal

Columns

May 27, 2013

Real-life heroes shine at Mill Springs holiday event

Nancy —

Before leaving to cover the annual Memorial Day ceremonies in Nancy Monday, I spoke to my father, who was spending his morning with Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, and the whole gang.
“The thing I really like about Memorial Day,” he said, “is all the war movies are on.”
Who wouldn’t?
“The Dirty Dozen.” “The Guns of Navarone.” “Heartbreak Ridge.” For many of us, this is the closest we’ll get to a glimpse into what war is like. Their appeal has proven timeless, with many such films developing fans that will watch again and again, year after year. It’s practically tradition.
Hollywood screenwriters do their best to portray the actions of brave men and women who have pledged to defend their country against those who would do it harm. Sometimes war is glorified; sometimes we are shown the horrors inherent to the battle lines. Always, however, we see these things from the safety of our couch, as filtered through the lens of a camera.
The Mill Springs National Cemetery, however, tells the story in a less action-packed but more decidedly in-your-face fashion — because it is, in fact, right in front of your face. The haunting beauty of the lines of headstones — each a story in its own right, if only we take the time to look at them — is as compelling as any film, or more so. 
We see the echoes of war in a much more genuine way than is allowed on the screen. Every stone signifies that someone who has fought  — or someone who has died in battle, or someone who has worried over her spouse as he served his country — lies just beneath the earthen floor. While we hear no clever lines delivered by grizzled character actors, nor witnesses the pyrotechnics of soundstage artillery, the silence and serenity that surrounds the graves at Mill Springs pierces straight to the soul with the ferocity of a bugle’s blast.

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