Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Honored Glory...

I've spent time at the sites of past battlefields. With so many of my family serving in the armed forces, it was natural to acknowledge the history of past wars. Two places stand out in my memory because they were the only battlefields where I ever experienced something beyond my rather ordinary life. I FELT the sadness and despair that permeated the very walls of Corregidor's Battery Geary and Crockett. The feeling overwhelmed me for a time, especially in Battery Crockett where 27 men were killed instantly when one of Battery Geary's mortar guns was blown from its anchor into the adjacent powder magazine.

Later, the USA, Japan and the Republic Of The Philippines erected the Dome Of Peace to honor the fallen of Corregidor. The following poem is inscribed in the marble memorial under the dome.

Sleep, my sons, your duty done,
For Freedom’s light has come;
Sleep in the silent depths of the sea, or in your bed of hallowed sod,
Until you hear at dawn the low, clear reveille of God.

Between the pillars is the Eternal Flame - it is lit at night by a solar powered fuel cell. I understand that Corregidor is now refurbished in some ways with slide shows in the Malinta Tunnel and tours through Middleside Barracks.

However, when I visited in 1982 Corregidor was a nearly untouched island with the Dome, the Peace Memorial and the unlit Eternal Flame its only monuments. The other buildings, the dock and the barracks were left in their natural state of decay but have now been repaired to some extent for tourists.

The other place I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and despair was at Stones River National Battlefield in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. It was at the gravesite of a young second lieutenant in Mr. Lincoln's Army. The headstone was bigger than all the others, obviously one commissioned by his family. For a moment I was swept back in time and everything around me disappeared...I think it was his mother I felt in my heart. She was reading the new headstone and was overcome with grief.

Second Lieutenant Jasper Quigley, Only Son.

There was more, but I don't recall anything else...one of my girls yelled "Mom!" and I snapped back to the present with tears in my eyes for Jasper, who was called Jass by his family. I have no idea how I know that. Simple deduction? Or did I link for one brief moment with a grieving mother over her child? There are greater mysteries that only God knows.

And last, the saddest monument for families of those lost to war...The Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier.

Here lies, in honored glory, an American soldier known but to God.

Remember those who gave their lives...we live free because of them.

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