Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Following the American Legion's lead this Memorial Day
There is an American Legion Post in the area that I cover for work. I usually take a few moments to think about the people who have served on Memorial Day, but do little publicly. This year, I went to cover the events and my daughter came with me. I hadn't expected to have so many of the mixed feelings that I did. This has been compounded by memories of my own service, my husband's and learning more of my father's.
The post did memorials and wreath laying at four cemeteries. At one, they joined a civil war reenactment group for the brief service. Unless they are civil war buffs, many do not realize that Minnesota lost so many soldiers during the Civil War. A month shy of its anniversary, Minnesota had not yet celebrated its third year of statehood when it was first to answer the call and offer troops to President Lincoln. Southeastern Minnesota was one of the more populated areas on the frontier and many men volunteered from the area. Though there are not many, there are civil war veterans buried here.
Minnesotans fought in many battles of the war; on July 2, 1863, at the Battle of Gettysburg, the First Minnesota kept back the Confederates at Cemetery Ridge--probably saving the battlefield. During the bloodiest battle of the war, 82 percent of the units men died or were wounded. Out of 262 men, only 47 survived. The unit suffered the highest casualty rate of the entire war.
I have an incredibly hard time with military stuff. While reading names of veterans at the first cemetery, both my daughter and I noted that the first name read--determined alphabetically, happened to be that of a woman. When so many women are not acknowledged as veterans, it really moved me. Sadly, women have been hurt in ways many choose to not understand.
The pastor of the last ceremony read things from Sherman describing war for the hell that it is. It is tremendously difficult for me to hear so many glorify war--something routinely done especially on days around veteran's holidays. He recognized the families that also serve. I fought the tears when they came. I served during the Gulf War and my husband served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Military life is really hard on kids--how few people realize just how much. I am very grateful for the morning--it was a true blessing to spend the day with the Legion. Members of the post have been asking if we want to join them, perhaps the time has finally come.