Happy Memorial Day.
This is the 20th year of the Luminaria at Marye's Heights. I feel it is important for my boys to understand that freedom is not free. People die for their country, their families, their ideas. History isn't all cool houses, quaint costumes... and weaponry is not just cool toys.
Wars are real. And they effect everyone.
I had Allan drive us closer to the battlefield to save our energy for climbing the hill. It was a great plan. We made it up just fine. Joey was being Shy Guy for most of the walk to the gate; andAndy wanted to look at more of the plaques about the battle, and the Kirkland Memorial. Anxiety rose as we neared the gate, where the crowd was bottlenecked to enter the cemetery. We got through, and headed up. I was steady talking about what Memorial Day is, and then the Battle of Fredericksburg. We talked about the union soldiers likely reaching our back yard, but only about a block or two closer to the Heights. We talked about Gettysburg. We talked about how the site became a cemetery for soldier who died in the battle, with some burials for later wars. They liked the paper bags and the pretty lit walkways, and Andy wanted to know why some of the headstones were smaller than others, and what the number on the tops meant. We talked about each grave having 2 lights, because often more than one soldier was interred there, and it wasn't always known who was buried where.
Then we reached the top, and both audibly gasped.
There are over 15,000 soldiers buried at Marye's Heights.
Joey understands that cemeteries are solemn places, and that when you see a sea of lights marking graves, he is supposed to feel sad. Confronted with that sea of sacrifice, he was sad. So we then talked a while about what he was seeing, and why it was important. Yes, it is sad. But it also important to remember, and respect, and think about what others do to keep you safe, free, and able to enjoy all the things of life. These were people who sacrificed their lives for their country. For all of us.
We also talked a bit about the Civil War, and why people were fighting. Andy observed that thinking people are less than human just because their skin is a different color is plain stupid. I must admit, I totally agree with him.
He wandered about the graves, looking at the different stones, the names, the numbers. He was upset when the light failed and he couldn't read the names anymore. As he said: "These are real people. We should know their names." I think he was bit sad that we didn't know all the names. Only 2,473 of the soldiers buried at Marye's Heights are identified in marked graves.
We had to step aside to let the bugler through, and he played a lovely rendition of taps. Both boys managed to stay silent through it. Yes, even Joey. We talked about that silence as a show of respect.
We walked home, two boys quieter than they were coming in. They have a lot to think about.