By Madison Alvarado, TIWP student

400,000 breaths sit in silence, held with anticipation under six feet of dirt; those men do not stir.

400,000 hearts holding a beat; a flag and a bullet are their company.

400,000 white marble blocks, each one and the same. The names that are engraved are different but each spells the same if you look close enough.

The unknown soldier.

400,000 lives. They may not have all been colorful but each has been touched by red. I don’t know any of them. I try to hold on to names, to grasp a part of a person that once was, but they sift through the crevices of my mind because that is what dust does. MacArthur, Johnson, Smith, Rowley, I don’t know why my silly little brain won’t do enough to honor the dead.

My dad wants a picture of me in front of the Kennedys. He says the background is pretty. I don’t want to pose next to death.

400,000 corpses all in neat little lines. I have never seen war spread so evenly over rolling green hills, seen its destruction thin out into the horizon as it does here. You can turn all 360 degrees and it will just keep going.

I can see the monuments.

“Uncle Sam wants YOU!” they scream. White doesn’t seem so pure. It is no wonder politicians chose such a bloody place to hold their arena.

The 38th parallel cuts through the city. Eisenhower hops his way across islands to the Battle of Midway in the heart of our nation’s capital. World War II, Vietnam, the Civil War, they all make their home here. The war monuments serve as a tribute and a reminder.

And I don’t want to be angry about all of these wars because to say they were pointless disrespects all those who fought and died in them. It means they died in vain.

And I don’t want that.

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