All the brave soldiers that cannot get older ....
.....do we find the cost of freedom buried in the ground?
Those words resonate to this day, and especially this day for me, as it was 2 years ago that my only child, Lt Ken Ballard was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
When you are deciding where your military family member will be buried, you have up to one year after the death to decide if they will be buried in a military cemetery. For me, waiting 5 months to bury Ken didn't seem strange, although some people thought so. As October drew near, I wondered why I had waited.
Most families want their loved ones buried nearby, whether at a private or a military cemetery. For me, even though I live in California, it was an easy decision. Ken loved being a soldier and I knew he belonged at Arlington National Cemetery. When he was killed in service to this country, he became a part of our national fabric. At Arlington, his gravesite would always be cared for. At Arlington, people would know of Ken's valor and of our families loss and sacrifice.
At Arlington, as all military cemeteries, there is a reverence about it. On national days of remembrance like Memorial Day and Veteran's Day, Ken and all of the people who served this country in the military are honored and remembered.
Ken was the 89th soldier from the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan to be buried at Arlington. When Ken was buried, there were 3 rows in Section 60 for these recent casualties. The last time I visited, there were 4 rows in front of Ken. At each visit, there are new rows, newly turned dirt. If you are ever in Arlington, do stop by and visit Ken and Section 60. You can find his gravesite at SECTION 60 SITE 8006. Stop at the visitors center; they'll help you find the way. I promise you cannot forget a visit to our national cemetery.
For me, October 22 is one of those milestone days that comes up every year, another day to remember how and why my life has changed so much since that awful day on May 30, 2004. As of today 2792 families have had their hearts ripped out since the beginning of the invasion of Iraq 3 1/2 years ago. I am not alone in my grief and while we share this grief, we each have to decide how to get through the rest of our lives living with this pain.
When I decided to speak out against the war, I didn't want another family to hear the words "I regret to inform you" from a uniformed officer standing on their doorstep. I couldn't bear the thought of another family being handed a flag that had just covered their loved one's casket. I did not want this president and his administration to think that my silence would give them permission to continue the wrong course that has been pursued since taking office, not in my name, anyway.
My message to the president is this- Your insistence in "staying the course" is not a sign of strength; it is a sign of ignorance. Your insistence on not listening to the professional military staff is killing our children. While the office of the presidency deserves respect; you as the president have not earned our respect; you do not deserve anyone's respect. You do not have my respect.
My message to Ken is this- Every single day I miss you more than the day before. Every day, I ask myself "now what?" Now, what do I do with my life without you here with me? Every day is a struggle; every day is a reminder of my new normal. What I wouldn't give for just one more of those "take-my-breath-away" bear hugs of yours, just one. I just wanted to let you know that I am thinking of you especially on this day. I love you, buddy!
Find the Cost of Freedom
(Words and music by Stephen Stills)
Following me to bed
I think about a hundred years ago
How my Fathers bled
I think I see a valley
Covered with bones in blue
All the brave soldiers that cannot get older
Been asking after you
Hear the past a' calling
When everyone's talking and no one
How can we decide
Do we find the cost of freedom
Buried in the ground
Mother Earth will swallow you
Lay your body down.