|Photo copyright Hannah Pop Rocki. Used with permission|
Friday, May 23, 2014
On Memorial Day
There are war monuments all across America. I’ve seen many of them. I make a point to look at them. The great monuments to the horse artillery that stand in front of the Capitol building in Washington show the energy and determination of the men in action. Some monuments are on the actual battlefields. The massive granite shrine that marks where Pennsylvania regiments stood at Gettysburg and the substantial, but simple markers that show where each brigade dug in on top of Kennesaw Mountain. (My great great Grandfather’s unit is listed there, the 3rd Texas Cavalry.) Small towns across America have war monuments too. It seems like every little town across the South has one in the town square or where the center of town used to be. These monuments are often a single soldier or just as often a simple obelisk with the names of the dead. When I look at these monuments, I’ve always thought of the men they memorialize. What they did, what it meant to their comrades, and what they gave for our country.
I saw a photograph of a monument that made me think of something else this year. The words were “Erected by the Ladies Memorial Association 1871.” Those simple words let me know that this was not a monument erected by the veterans as so many others. It was “Erected by the ladies…” Looking at this monument, for the first time, I didn’t think of the men. I thought of the women who missed them. The “ladies” were the wives, mothers, and sisters who would never see their loved ones again. In the years right after the war, when some had lost everything, they must have set about the task of building this monument with energy, love, and devotion. It became a memorial to their men and how much these men meant to them.
When I think of what Memorial Day means, I think of the sacrifice of the fallen and what they did to shape and defend our nation. But I’ll also remember what else that sacrifice meant. That 150 years ago, the people who put up those monuments had suffered the loss on a personal level. From now on, I’ll look at the monuments they built and think not just of the soldiers, but of the people who loved them. Thank you ladies.