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Sacred to Chamber and Ayre alike

An all-too-brief visit to the battlefields of Gettysburg today left me feeling wistful for a number of reasons. The year I spent at Gettysburg College in 1969 was significant for a number of reasons, and interestingly enough I found myself passing through Chambersburg, PA 40 years to the day from my official entrance into my chosen faith in that town.

This was the first time I had taken the opportunity to explore the surrounding countryside - as a young student, I had no transportation and not much brain in my head at the time. This visit was different.

So many people died in the most brutal of ways... each group fighting for causes they felt were just and noble. As I contemplated Lincoln's address with my son, we wondered if the 16th president would be pleased or saddened by what our country has become in the intervening 140-odd years, and we decided it would probably be a mixture of both.

The Gettysburg Diorama was an interesting presentation - sound and light, with some illumination effects in the diorama itself, such as cannonfire and glowing campfires at night. It was moving and impressive. In my heart I honored the dead of both sides who had hallowed those rolling fields with their blood, knowing that with every footstep I probably was walking where a corpse had lain.

As twilight fell, we moved on and found a comfortable place to stay in Harrisburg, before visiting Philadelphia in the morning tomorrow.

I need to get back to Gettysburg again and stay longer this time... but I was glad to have had the chance for even a quick visit.


Monument


Battlefields


Diorama


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Comments

torakiyoshi
May. 19th, 2009 04:19 am (UTC)
I did not make it to Ghettysburg last summer; someday I hope to do so. It is an interesting thing to conemplate, where our country has come and what it has done.

I do, however, remember the feeling I had when I visited Stone Mountain in '95. It was an interesting mixture, to be at a place honoring those whom, for so many years, I had been taught were "The Enemy." It opened my eyes to a lot of things, but the lesson did not sink in until '99, when I was in Munich. I saw a low stone building in the Hofgarten am Staatskanzlei. Curious, I walked over to see what it was.


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It turned out to be a Denkmal. The building was at garden level, so you had to step down into it. Inside was the statue of a soldier, laying on his back, in full World War II battle regalia. There was a woman there with her infant, laying flowers on the soldier's chest.

I was stunned. This was a memorial to the soldiers in a war caused for criminal, and even evil purposes? How dare they?! I fled the memorial, and wandered, by myself, for hours. Suddenly, instead of being in the city with which I had fallen in love the moment I arrived, I was in a place filled with enemies. I was unable to comprehend the language being spoken around me, despite the fact that my classmates had been having me serve as translator whenever our professor was not with us. I meandered, lost, through the Innenstadt. Visions swam through my head of the soldier in the memorial, of WWII videos, both real and re-enactments, where the German army were depicted as cruel oppressers fought by the righteous allies...

Slowly, visions of Stone Mountain also started to enter. I looked into the faces of the people around me on the crowded subways, in the shops. These were humans, just like me. A proud people, a loving people, a warm people. This was but one war memorial I had seen that day. Every major battle the Bavarians had been in since the 1600's had memorials scattered around the area I walked. Why should this war be any different? They didn't go to war because they loved Hitler. They went to war because their country demanded it of them, just like our soldiers did. And the men bled and died, leaving behind children, brothers, sisters, wives, parents.

Of course there would be a memorial for them, and they absolutely deserved it. They didn't die to defend the right to keep the Sudetenland, Poland, France, or to kill every Jew in Europe. They died because they loved Germany. As I had come to love Germany. As I loved Germany, long before I sat in Frau Buck's class, the first week of my sophomore year in High School. This was OUR land. Those soldiers were every bit as much my soldiers as the Americans. And had my Grandfather, an Allied soldier and a pureblooded German, died in WWII, I ought to put flowers on that memorial in his name, too.

Suddenly, I understood Germany, and my own heritage a little better. And as an historian, I also saw more clearly through the mirror of history. Soldiers on the battlefield are common men. They do not set the policies of the wars. Nor do they ask to start wars. They fight for love of country and for honor. And when they die, we are honor-bound to give them that honor, which they richly deserve.

-=Kiyoshi

Edited at 2009-05-19 04:20 am (UTC)
ccdesan
May. 19th, 2009 12:21 pm (UTC)
A pleasing essay.
alaskawolf
May. 20th, 2009 11:50 am (UTC)
that is one impressive Diorama :)

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