It is called The Tomb of the Unknowns and perhaps no monument in the national’s capital is more revered than what is also called the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I prefer “Unknowns,” this because the mortal remains of three heroes are interred there who died for our freedom – one each from World War I, World War II and Korea.
As you know, thousands visit the Tomb every day, especially at the Changing of the Guard, but what awes each and every one are the words they read in total silence: HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD. It is a very holy place and the perfect setting for what unfolded there last week.
When the eighth grade at Chattanooga Christian School went to Washington on the class trip, the Tomb had a special visitor.
Katie Smith, whose older brother continues to struggle after portions of his legs were blown away by a hidden explosive in Afghanistan, was stymied when word first reached the family in Ooltewah that Army Spec. Andrew Smith had been critically injured on his first patrol ever in combat.
Imagine such news! As the entire family groped with the shock, Katie promptly entered a contest where the prize was to actually lay a wreath at the Tomb. She tried mightily, to be sure, and her winning essay soon enabled her to get three of her pals to help as they solemnly and reverently place the wreath last Tuesday. Anne Dassow, Josh Brower and Jeremy Payne accompanied Katie under the watchful eyes of the guards, her other glowing classmates and most especially Katie’s mother, who has been alternating weeks with her husband in nearby Bethesda where their son is still in intensive care at Walter Reed National Military Hospital.
Since Andrew was airlifted to Walter Reed in March, he has undergone numerous surgeries and, while his injuries were extensive, he is making progress day by day. A Facebook page, “Praying For Andrew,” has generated wonderful prayer and support for the young soldier and his wife, Tori, but to have his sister and her friends place a wreath at the Tomb in his honor is “big medicine” indeed.
Without further ado, let’s read Katie Smith’s winning essay:
THE SACRIFICE A SOLDIER MAKES
By Katie Smith
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier represents the sacrifices a soldier makes to defend our country. Knowing that I would be honoring the three fallen soldiers, and any other soldier who made the sacrifice with laying the wreath would mean the world to me. The history of the Tomb humbles me to know that people have given their lives protecting me and that they are still being honored for it. Multiple members of my family served in the U.S. Military such as, both of my grandfathers and my brother. In my opinion, the Unknown Soldier symbolizes the sacrifice, whether death or injury, a soldier risks taking.
I have personal experience with how a soldier sacrifices. My brother, SPC Andrew Smith, a soldier with the 82nd Airborne, was deployed to Afghanistan and was wounded in combat on March 8, 2012. While on patrol near Kandahar, an IED detonated next to him. He lost both of his legs along with some other severe wounds.
Before he joined the Army, we asked why he wanted to do this and he said, “I will do anything and go anywhere to keep this fight from coming here.” He was aware of the risks that were involved in being a soldier, but he was so devoted to protecting our freedom that he was willing to sacrifice in a major way. Even though he is away from the war, he is still fighting. He fights for his life, mobility, and a somewhat normal life. While I was at Walter Reed National Medical Center, I noticed a whole community of people with titanium limbs, and knowing that they made the sacrifice for me and my freedom, like my brother did, is humbling. I will never again take for granted any of my limbs, mobility, freedom, or anything because now I know that people lost those things while keeping me safe. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if I had to say that my brother made the same exact sacrifice the Unknown Soldiers did and I thank God every day that I don’t have to. However, I would love to honor them in any way I can, all the same. It is a great tragedy that has come over these soldiers, but it is also a great honor for them. They were brave enough to make that sacrifice and they should be rewarded in every way possible. These men and women are true heroes and I couldn’t thank them enough for the service they’ve done for our country.
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Well done, Katie. Well done indeed.
Jeremy Payne, Anne Dassow, Katie Smith and Josh Brower at Arlington Cemetery