The scenery was somewhat similar, except Patriot Plaza is complete with artwork honoring the men and women who served our country. I saw a woman sitting curl up in front of a headstone crying. She could have been the woman I saw last year.
Unlike last year, every white headstone had a crisp, red, white and blue American flag waving in front of it. Some organization – I’m not sure which, but I thank them – made sure there was a flag at every grave site.
As I walked through the cemetery sections reading the headstones, one caught my eye because of the additional flags around it. My eyes welled with tears and couldn’t turn the waterworks off when I saw “KIA.” This soldier was 21 when he was killed in action in Afghanistan. Just 21. I’m 45 years old and have lived more than the twice the life he did yet he made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our liberties.
The grave belongs to Army Spc. Patrick L. Lay II of Fletcher, N.C., killed on Aug. 11, 2011, by an improvised explosive device blast in Afghanistan. He was in Company C, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division and was killed with four other soldiers. So, so young. Read more in this opens in a new windowStars & Stripes article and visit his opens in a new windowmemorial page on Facebook.
Everyday, I’m thankful for my liberties and traveling abroad makes me appreciate what we have in the U.S. The freedoms we have came with and continue to come with a price. Thank you to those who serve and thank you to those who gave.
View additional photos of the Sarasota National Cemetery on my Flickr stream.