On my first visit to Washington DC, in March, I did not have much time. I wanted to see something while I was out there. I hate having a strictly business trip, especially to some place I have not been, without stopping in and seeing some of the local sites. Since I was flying out of Dulles airport I was looking on a map to see what was close. I decided since my flight wasn't until 14:00 I would get up early and drive down to a local Civil War battlefield and on my way back I would stop by the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum near Dulles airport.
The Civil War battlefield was Bull Run / Manassas. The north and south would have different names for the battles. One would base the name on a local town or train stop and the other based the name on a local river or geographical feature. That is why the battle and battlefield often have two different names.
I have to admit, there wasn't as much to see there as I expected. Not that there was nothing. There was something there. The 'thing' is the something wasn't tangible. It wasn't something I could take a picture of. As I walked on the very ground where so many men fell, I could feel it. I could feel the voices of those who fell in order to preserve this union.
It was awe inspiring. It was a hallowed moment. A moment of reflection. A moment of gratitude and sorrow. A bitter-sweet moment that will last the rest of my life.
As I walked the grounds, it was a cold morning, overcast and wet. I could feel my feet where wet because I had packed light and had only one pair of shoes. I could image the cold and hunger of the men who face each other. Each knowing today may be their last day here on Earth. Looking across the same field I was looking across now. I imagined the shouts and cries of war; the sounds of canons and muskets. The pain of the men who fell and the loss to their loved ones. All for what? To leave us a free and whole country.
I often wonder if we are worthy of their gift. How this country has squandered our inheritance. If those men could see America today, would they drop their guns and say, "forget it, I am not dying for that." In distain they would walk away wondering what's the point?
I wonder if that is really how they would feel. I know this much, I feel obligated by their sacrifice to take seriously my roll in this participative form of government. If I don't, it would only mean I did not value their sacrifice.