Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bringing History to Life

I'm a descendant of American Patriots, men who fought in the American Revolution and their loved ones who stood by them. They really went out on a limb for freedom, and it is humbling to imagine them taking up arms and standing firm for independence. There is a wonderful television miniseries/documentary on the American Revolution I've recorded, and I'm always amazed at how cool, calm, and collected Geo. Washington comes across in the series. "Father of our country" is a fitting accolade for him. I'm a member of the DAR, which usually evokes images of stuffy, older, ultra-conservative ladies sipping tea. But in reality it is an organization of active, committed women, working together to make a difference. It's a great nonprofit, striving to promote education, historic preservation, and patriotism. Evolving through the years, it is has been interesting to watch it "go green", help schools, look out for our veterans and soldiers (whether members believe in the war, or not, we look out for our own). I'm proud to be a member and honor my ancestors' memories for sidling out on that tree branch.

Yesterday we had our monthly meeting and honored the 200th birthday of President Abraham Lincoln with a guest speaker ~ Col. Isaiah Turner. Col. Turner gave a first hand account of what it was like to be a solider in the Civil War. He talked about how a lot of the Northern boys looked like the Southern boys -- young, 18, 19, 20 years old. He talked about the hardships, the battles of Bull Run, Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, and the surrender of Gen. Lee in 1865. He also described the life of soliders when not in battle, including gambling, louse races (picking lice off their jackets and putting them on their plates to race), and how the song "Home Sweet Home" was banned because it made the soldiers too homesick and they always ended up with desserters. He ended by talking about how the Civil War was the deadliest war in US history, with more than 620,000 dying, and reflected on what that war meant and its impact on our country today.

It's always made me curious -- what would possess a grown man to don a uniform from a by-gone era and participate in re-enactments, as our guest speaker does? He explained he is concerned about how poorly our American students perform in history. Do they really care what our country has been through? Is it all just blah-blah-blah in their ears, like war stories told one time too many? He believes by bringing history to life, he can help people understand and remember our history more poignantly. So a sharp salute to Col. Isaiah Turner. He earned our respect yesterday for what he is attempting.

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