- The Washington Times - Monday, May 29, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Once again, President Trump, after his successful nine-day trip overseas, did America proud, this time on the sacred U.S. soil of Arlington National Cemetery.

With an unusually arresting humility and quiet grace, the president expressed clearly-heartfelt gratitude to the nation’s fallen warriors and their families.

“We only hope that every day we can prove worthy, not only of their sacrifice and service, but of the sacrifice made by the families and loved ones they left behind,” Mr. Trump said.

Without a word, he slowly laid the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. His expression and movement conveyed more than an appropriate solemnity. He transmitted somehow a personal connection with the fallen and their families and a reverence for them that was palpable.

In the applause from military families and dignitaries attending the memorial service was a heart-swelling enthusiasm not seen or heard in many years at this solemn annual event.

Instead of endless war-memorial platitudes, Mr. Trump, who attended a military secondary school, personalized his part of the ceremony. He recognized by name people in attendance who had contributed U.S. militarily efforts. He recognized former Sen. Bob Dole, who suffered permanently crippling injuries as a member of the 10th Mountain Division in a battle with the German army in Italy in World War II.

He honored Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, a retired general, and his son Robert, killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

Noting that “I always call him ‘general,’” Mr. Trump said Mr. Kelly “understands more than most ever could, or ever will, the wounds and burdens of war … We grieve with you. We honor you and we pledge to you that we will always remember Robert and what he did for us.”

The president did not once mention himself.

The remarks of Defense Secretary James Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman James Dunford, who stood with the president, were also appropriately distinguished and moving. And memorable.

Gen. Mattis made the especially appropriate point that it is not this world-renowned plot of land overlooking the Potomac River and the nation’s capital that gives Americans reason to remember and revere the service members buried there.

Rather, it is they, the fallen, who gave their lives in service to the nation, that bestow dignify to America’s national burial ground.

To make his point, Gen. Mattis repeated the words of the ancient Greek writer Plutarch who recalled that 2,300 years ago, Agesilaus the Great, king of Sparta, upon being seated on a backbench at some public event, said with hubris-free equanimity: “It’s not the places that grace men, but men who grace the places.”

Just so. The defense secretary won appointment from a president who is as skeptical of wars as he is deeply respectful of the military. It was a proud Memorial Day scene for every American who understands and appreciates the exceptionalism of his native or adopted land.

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