Tomb of the Unknown Soldier: A moving essay by Kristina Howell

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Photo by Thomas Loker Photography

Intro by Thomas Loker
Sometimes, as we go through our lives, and if we keep our eyes open, we will find remarkable young people that will touch our hearts and give us hope for our future. Recently, at the dinner party of one of my closest friends just such a remarkable young person was revealed before me. As she was born within a few months of my 13 year old son, I have observed this remarkable young woman all her life and have watched as she has grown to become a lovely young woman.
As Kristina herself points out; we often keep moving forward with life and take things, and those around us for granted. Like most, while I have seen her grow, I have never really known her, other than to observe that she has been a good, considerate, and helpful child. But I have not really known what she was made of, of her character, of her strong feelings, of the beautiful spirit that she has become inside. This only revealed itself because her father let me read something she recently wrote.
Kristina Howell in now in the 8th grade at Dartmouth Middle School in San Jose, I have always known she was an avid reader, but up until she recently took up a challenge to submit an essay in a voluntary writing contest prior to a class trip to Washington, D.C. I was not aware that she was also a skilled writer. More importantly, reading what she wrote reminded me that we need to really know our youth better, they are our future and they represent our best hope for a just and strong nation.
Kristina researched and wrote a very compelling piece and won the contest. Along with her win she also received the privilege of laying the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. This accolade will likely become the first of many in her life. She proudly represented her classmates, family, and country in the laying of the wreath but she brought honor to all of us with her winning essay, “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.”

Essay contest winner, Kristina Howell, 13, from San Jose, Ca., places wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Does anybody ever stop to think about those who sacrificed themselves for us? Even when this sort of thing is brought to our attention, we tend to keep moving forward with life, always taking freedom for granted. We’re always wallowing in our own depression, never realizing how great our lives truly are. There are a few rare people who know that it won’t last forever. They risk everything to ensure that we keep it. They decide to fight our battles for us, because they love their country. These people are soldiers.
Soldiers have, and always will, stand as a role model for me. Their bravery is something many can only hope to possess. When we hear about the sacrifices they made, it really makes us appreciate the little things in life that ordinarily wouldn’t make a difference. It seems to briefly snap us back into a brutal reality. For a moment, we stop seeing everything as safe, when there’s war all around us, and nowhere to run.
When a war victim dies, it makes me wonder who they really were. Even if they’re unidentifiable, they still meant something to someone. I wonder if there was anything they wish they’d done differently, anything they wished they’d said? As they lay dying, were they filled with regret for never saying goodbye? Did their heart break, just before it stopped beating, because they never said “I’m sorry” or “I love you”? Did their spouse or parents cry because they realized their loved one was gone? Did their children finally realize that Mommy or Daddy was never coming home? Both war heroes and their families have to be strong, even if their heart is breaking inside. The reason I want to be a part of the group to lay down the wreath, is that I want to show all those unspoken words, strength, and bravery. I want to represent all those “I’m sorry’s,” or “I love you’s” that the soldier never got to say. But most of all, for the soldier, I want to be the one to say goodbye.

I hope after you read this piece you will post a comment to Kristina here and tell her how her essay touched you, and that you will pass along the link to this story so that others can learn of what a truly remarkable person Kristina is and help encourage her gifts and talents! Perhaps Kristina’s wisdom and insight can re-inspire patriotism along with the appreciation of hard work and great sacrifice that much of our youth seem to have lost over recent years. Maybe, along the way, her essay will help us inspire, find, and recognize more like Kristina, a truly remarkable young woman!

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Tom Loker
Tom Loker

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