On December 16, thousands of people visited Arlington National Cemetery to volunteer in the annual wreath laying. Though the weather was chilly, visitors placed over 245,000 wreaths on the graves of Armed Forces veterans at the renowned cemetery in Virginia. The wreath laying event has been happening for 26 years, and demonstrates the nation’s gratitude for our lost soldiers.
Before this event even happened though, another special moment took place at Arlington National Cemetery. On November 20, the Brazel family was visiting the grave of Army Staff Sgt. Alfred Brazel. He was husband to Kait, and father to young Mason and Mylan, who were just 8 and 5 years old when they lost their father to cancer. Alfred Brazel was only 37.
That day at the cemetery, the two boys were relaxing on a blanket near their dad’s grave while their mother looked on. She shot a picture of the two brothers, one napping while the other prayed. It was a sweet moment, but one that was incredibly significant.
The family handled Alfred’s illness with courage. The boys went to all their dad’s doctor appointments and their parents were honest with them. “We never once addressed it as a sad thing…We as a family lived and continue to live life to the fullest in every moment,” said Kait. “I tell them, ‘We are here as tools for God. God knew that Daddy was a really strong person, and there were some people God couldn’t reach unless he used Daddy as a tool. That’s how we went with it and how we justified it. That’s what we believe.”
On this visit, Kait drove a long 24 hours to get to the cemetery, and the boys were looking forward to visiting their dad. At the grave site, the boys told their dad about recent events. At one point little Mylan said that he “felt daddy”, then took a nap at the gravestone.
Afterward, Mylan hugged his dad’s gravestone. His big brother Mason has been taking care of him and helping him remember their father. Says Kait, “Mason remembers a lot about his dad and how he raised him to be confident and very goal-oriented. He’s been teaching Mylan the same, saying to him, ‘This is how Daddy would do it.'”
This holiday season, we should all take a moment to reflect on our nation’s veterans, and remember that though they were soldiers, they were also someone’s parents, spouses and children.