Looking out over Manila from my apartment window, I catch a glimpse of the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial. I decide that it needs further investigation and walk over in the noon-time heat. Shorts and sandals a pale substitute for imagined empathies of heavy packs carried through unfamiliar and unrelenting jungles.

I arrive. Nothing I’ve seen previously prepares me for the beauty, sadness and overwhelming graceful composition of the memorial grounds.

With determination and purpose, row upon row of simple white memorials elegantly rise above the perfectly trimmed surface. Lining up at attention with the overhead sun, crosses and stars with weather-worn names from states like Oregon, Wisconsin, Nebraska and New Jersey reach out for my attention … ever hopeful that they won’t be forgotten. Or at best, that their sacrifice isn’t mislaid. From a distance, the memorials seem to link together solemnly arm-in-arm, warding off all ill intention.

Here there are no political parties, no scandals, no innuendo nor obfuscation. Just an awareness of time that washes over me in waves of reflective silence.

And then I feel it. An understanding. Hope, fear, pain, suffering and the glory of shared experience forever linked in eternal camaraderie. Unsure of the finality of their story, each of 17,206 individuals lays down and becomes a part of something bigger than themselves.

Rest as one boys in your decisive moments so valiantly lived … so that the lot of us can rest in peace.

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