Gettysburg Lessons

“The power of noble deeds is to be preserved and passed on to the future.” – Joshua Chamberlain, Brigadier General, American Civil War

The kids and I just returned from a trip with our family to Gettysburg.  My father is a huge Civil War buff and he walked the battlegrounds with us and told stories, gave little known facts, and emphasized the importance of knowing our history to the children.  My father, himself, is a war veteran.  He served in Vietnam.  So, when he spoke about the cost of war, we all listened closely.

Our time there caused me to ponder the notions of war, patriotism, courage, sacrifice, duty, truth, justice and one’s ideas of right and wrong.  I heard countless stories of men who showed tremendous compassion to one another across enemy lines, despite being engaged in the brutality of war.  Even within the context of one of the most grotesque experiences of humanity – there were still traces of compassion.  I was deeply moved by the complexities of the human heart and spirit.

We have ancestors who fought in the Civil War.  My great, great grandfather was the only survivor in his family.  Ours was an example of brother against brother.   He fought on the Confederate side and his 4 older brothers all perished on the Union side.  It is said that he held one of his dying brothers in his arms at the battle of Antietam.

For my children this trip was about education.  It was about teaching them where they have come from as Americans, and as descendants in our family.  It was about teaching them how far some men will go for what they believe in – even to their death.  It was about teaching them the horrors of war and its cost.  It was about teaching them that all people have value.  It was about teaching them the importance of preserving one’s heritage (both familial and country).  It was about teaching them about family.

My son is proudly wearing his “Pickett’s Charge” tshirt to school this morning and bursting to share all he’s learned with his classmates.  My daughter enjoyed her time seeing family and being together with those she loves as she experienced something new.  As for me, I am profoundly impacted by the lessons I learned and on many levels, changed by them.

I believe that is as it should be.