Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial — Veterans Day 2014 — Painful Transience

© 2014 Peter Free


12 November 2014



Stone-marked transience


Rain and autumnal trees cradled the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial at Hamm, yesterday.


Photograph of Luxembourg American Cemetary grave markers by Peter Free, Veterans Day 2014.


I stood back, as the American military formally commemorated Veterans Day.


Photograph of Luxembourg American Cemetery, Veterans Day 2014, Air Force volley.


Speeches and ceremony may be necessary for the living, particularly those who deserve veterans’ recognition and for those whose uniforms manifest continuing mission. For me, the rain-soaked stillness between markers communicated more profoundly.


Photograph of Luxembourg American Cemetary, Veterans Day 2014, three soldiers rounding the corner, by Peter Free.



Afterward, walking marker rows, I experienced my customary, unworkable wish to acknowledge each name.


Vanishingly few gravesites hold flags. Even fewer, flowers.


Photograph of Luxembourg American Cemetery, Veterans Day 2014, colorful clothing, by Peter Free.


Most of these once vital people are vanished from memory. Parents long dead. Surviving siblings now passed or soon to be. The result, slowly fading names on stone crosses and stars of David. Transience, highlighted by the dying season’s release of leaves.


There are twenty-two sets of brothers in this place.


Photograph of Luxembourg American Cemetery, with umbrella, by Peter Free.


It is difficult to know how to properly honor war dead . . .


. . . without simultaneously abstracting combat’s brutality. The silent symmetry of white markers is at odds with war’s chaotic outrage.


Perhaps humanity’s psyche would evolve more quickly, if passing military graves resulted in personally re-experiencing condensed versions of each violently shortened life.



A glimpse of autumn sun


Flags at half-mast, silence wraps the marker-encumbered green slopes. Gold eagles at the gate speak different languages to young versus old.


Photograph of Luxembourg American Cemetery gate eagles, Veterans Day 2014, by Peter Free.


As we leave — our car the last one remaining at the now muddied side of the road, which hours before had been packed — sunlight ephemerally falls on a row of orange-brown trees.


Autumn’s beauty and military symbolism are not enough to subdue my sadness.