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Memorial Day is commitment. It’s soldiers standing in the smoldering heat, heavy rain, and brisk night, or changing the guard every hour on the hour. Around the United States people take this day to share experiences, honor soldiers, and celebrate our nation.

My middle school took a trip to Washington D.C. at the end of the year in eighth grade. One of the first places we toured was the Changing of the Guard for the Unknown Soldier. We watched with wide eyes as the soldiers frantically flipped their rifles, and as our teachers shushed us to stop whispering. We stood in silence behind a thin rope, wearing sweaty shorts and T-shirts, complaining about being too tired or hot. They  stood before us in dark, heavily suited clothes, chanting what seemed to be nonsense.

The soldiers are trained to change the guard about 16 times a day, going through a strict routine. This includes everything in increments of 21 seconds, or steps in complete silence. The men and women who perform this spend their free time studying cemetery “knowledge”, training, and sleeping. Even on days off they train. This position is volunteer, yet they are expected to do a lot. Seven pages of information, certain height and built, have a military record, and know where over 300 tombs are located.  Volunteering for this shows immense commitment to the Unknown Soldier, and all American service members.

Memorial Day is the commitment of generations in the Gillette family serving and defending our country. Grandpa wears his Korean war hat proudly, spending two years devoted to the U.S. Navy. He speaks highly of his experiences in the USS Tilefish SS-307, his submarine, and is proud he committed to the military right out of high school. Having lost a brother in WW2 he is grateful, as am I, for the people who sacrifice their lives for us.

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