IT’S NOVEMBER: NanoWrimo sparks over 300,000 writers to start their new novels. War Veterans gather at cemeteries and memorials to remember past sacrifices. Both seek to engage us in stories that matter. I paired these two groups and their twined purposes when I read:
” Little Valley, a town in upstate New York plans to demolish the Cattaraugus County Historical and Memorial Building — its Civil War Memorial. “Mark Dunkelman, historian for the 154th New York regiment, (http://www.hardtackregiment.com/) conveyed this news to Damian Shields, an Irish archeologist who researches the stories of the Irish who fought in the American Civil War. You can read the details on Damian’s blog site: http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2013/11/06/civil-war-memorial-in-cattaraugus-county-new-york-under-threat/
Why should you or I, or Damian for that matter, care about preserving a Civil War memorial?
Well, it struck a chord with me – for my NanoWrimo story is about a veteran Irish Sharpshooter, whose journey through the Berkshire Hills begins his healing from the horrors of the Civil War. As I have read about that war, and other wars, I have begun looking more closely at War Memorials. Most towns place these memorials – often marble or granite slabs – in a visible place to remind its community of those sacrifices, of those lost, of those with no gravestone to mark their passing.
Whether it is the Civil War, the Great War, World War II or following conflicts, what is most important are the individual names, representing the individual sacrifices, telling the individual stories. These are not memorials to the wars but to the men and women who fell. Their stories matter.
First, we share the family feeling of pain that comes when no body comes home for burial. Bodies that were dismembered by cannon fire at Gettysburg, that were buried in the mud of Ypres, that lie in the island sands of the Pacific, that rotted in fetid jungles or disintegrated into fragments with a roadside bomb.
Second, we share the community loss of their gifts and potentials had they lived to contribute to our cities, towns, villages.
Third, we share the results of their sacrifices – both positive and negative. For after every such conflict, don’t we question ourselves, our country, our meanings? Don’t we search for new paths? New solutions? And, just as likely, don’t we fail and fall into the morass again?
As Siegfried Sassoon wrote in his poem Aftermath, March 1919:
Have you forgotten yet?
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget.