A whirlwind 72-hour visit to Washington, D.C. this past weekend re-enforced a familiar concept.
Freedom is never free.
In Arlington National Cemetery, the remains of over a quarter-million members of all branches of military service are forever enshrined and honoredincluding one Charles Thomas Knuckles, a corporal in the United States Marine Corps in World War I. He was my uncle.
Washington is a city that abounds with monuments and shrines. Hundreds and even thousands are dedicated to those who made the ultimate sacrifice to keep our beloved flag flying in freedom.
I was in D.C. to take a very small part in a very big eventthe annual United States Marine Corps Marathon. No, I didnt run the full marathon. I ran the 10K portion. Thats 6.2 miles, and a quite enough for my aging body this time around.
Finishing in 5,676th place out of 6,867 participants is certainly nothing to brag about. But I didnt finish last, and I didnt finish last in my age group. Ill take that.
Established in 1976, the Marine Corps Marathon is the fourth largest in the U.S. and the 8th largest in the world.
The route of the 10K portion took us the length of the National Mall, in front of the Washington Monument, over the Potomac River and past the Pentagon before finishing at the Iwo Jima Memorial.
The race route was lined with Marines at various points. They were there for logistical support. They also offered encouragement and high-fives to the participants.
These brave young men and women are the ones who deserve the encouragement and support in my view, so I tried to thank as many as I could for their service to our country.
The Marine who made the biggest impression on me wasnt on the sidelines cheering, though.
He was on the course, running well ahead of me most of the time.
Running with a titanium device attached to each of his legs, which had been amputated below the knee.
Running beside a lady who may have been his mother, or caretaker.
Running for all Wounded Warriors, it seemed, because thats what it said on the back of his T-shirt.
I wanted so badly after the race to talk to his remarkable young man, find out his name, his story, his background.
But when I started to approach him in the thong of runners milling around afterward, something in the set of his face, the determined look in his eye, gave me pause. This young man was in his own world, his own zone. It seemed wrong of me to intrude.
So I cant tell you this remarkable soliders story, whether he lost his legs in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere, or even his name.
But I can tell you that the sight of a soldier with both legs gone below the knees running straight and strong through the streets of our nations capital is an image I will never forget. I hope I remember it every time Im tempted to give in to grousing or grumbling. Looking at the big picture, I dont have a darn thing to complain about.
As Veterans Day approaches, I want to say thanks to this unknown Marine and all the veterans in Dawson and Lumpkin counties who have sacrificed so much for our freedom.
Your service helped make a difference.
Freedom is never free,
Wayne Knuckles is the acting-Publishers of the Dawson News & Advertiser. He can be reached at 706-265-2345 or firstname.lastname@example.org