Erinn Diaz: Entrepreneur, Performer, Author, Optimist
My dad worked for Piedmont Airlines, and they used to give him this “blue book” of tickets which allowed us to fly standby on any flight. Being homeschooled, mom and I would get up in the morning, fly to Washington DC, visit the museums and memorials for the day, and fly home just in time for dinner when my dad came home from work. DC has always been one of my favorite cities because of the amazing energy, the history and knowledge that abounds everywhere, and the sheer number of amazing things to see!
Though I did visit as a kid, In May of this year, I visited the Arlington National Cemetery for the first time as an adult. We have several hero friends that have been laid to rest there the past few years from WWII, and also wanted to visit the grave of a friend’s son who is a gold star parent.
The minute we walked into the cemetery, I felt like a weight was placed all over my shoulders and heart. The heaviness of it was unexpected, and became heavier when I saw a grave of soldier who had been killed in Iraq when he was only 21 years old. Beside the white headstone, there was a basket of flowers that had been sent to the site, and on it was a simple card that read: “Love you. Miss you. –Mom and Dad”. The tears just wouldn’t stop after reading that, and looking around at the massive amount of sacrifice that is represented in those grave for our freedoms.
When I returned home, I wrote to Arlington, and asked if Letters From Home could be a part of the ceremonies at Arlington. To my honor and surprise, I heard back from them just a few days later, and they invited us to lay the wreath on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier!
We would have gladly flown in for the experience, but, as the universe would have it, it just so happened that our time was scheduled for the morning after a performance we had in DC!
It was still a bit surreal when we arrived at the cemetery that morning. We had the wreath sent there the day before, and it was already delivered right to the guards at the tomb, so we hadn’t seen it. We were sent to talk to one of the guards who instructed us on how the ceremony was going to happen, then we were sent to the top of the stairs to wait. The time was going by so quickly. After the changing of the guard, another Marine came out holding the wreath. It was the first time I saw it in person and I was overcome with emotion… it was red, white and blue with a ribbon on it that said “Letters From Home”.
The guard walked with the bugler to the side of the tomb, and then Sgt. Ruth Hanks (who is the 4th female sentinel who has ever had the honor of guarding the tomb) started walking up to us. She was so perfect, not one thing was out of place on her or her uniform. My heart started racing.
We followed her in step down the steps towards the tomb as the other guard announced what the ceremony was about and what it meant. We got to the wreath, placed both hands on it and walked it across the path that is walked every hour of every day to the tomb. After the wreath was laid, hands over hearts, the bugler played “Taps” as we looked at the tomb remembered.
The feeling of standing there on the steps at Arlington and being a part of such an important ceremony is truly something that changed my life. I cannot imagine a higher honor in this world and my gratitude for those who have served our country so that we can enjoy the freedoms that we do every single day is deeper than ever.
Day is done,
Gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hill, from the sky.
All is well, safely rest,
God is nigh.