Wreaths in Winchester
This past Saturday two ECW editors volunteered at the Wreaths Across America event in Winchester National Cemetery. They both shared some thoughts and reflections on the experience…
Jon Tracey: Placing wreaths at Winchester National Cemetery was a worthwhile way to spend the Saturday before the holidays. It’s a well-maintained site that offers physical reminders of the price paid not only during the Civil War but after. The Veterans Affairs website shows how wide-ranging the cemetery is, noting that Civil War burials of United States soldiers include casualties from battles throughout the Shenandoah Valley and West Virginia, including Winchester, New Market, Front Royal, Cedar Creek, Snickers Gap, Harpers Ferry, Martinsburg, and Romney. The cemetery also includes burials from later conflicts, as it did not close until 1969. Wreaths Across America was also a great opportunity to look at the numerous veteran-placed monuments in the cemetery. Though I had been before, the opportunity to take a longer look and really take it all in while surrounded by memorial wreaths was very meaningful.
Sarah Kay Bierle: I’ve wanted to place wreaths on Civil War soldiers’ graves for many years, and it was a deeply moving experience. To say the names of the soldiers and carefully place the wreath, or in one case to read off only a number and think that the unidentified soldier buried decades ago epitomized the motto of the event “Remember. Honor. Teach.” I appreciated the master of ceremony’s remarks, reminding the hundreds of participants that we were not there to “decorate graves” but to remember the lives that were lived and given in service of country. Watching a young boy and his family read the names of the soldiers on the 8th Vermont Infantry monument reminded me why this event in the busyness of the holiday season is important and why we do what we do every day at Emerging Civil War: begin and continue the discussion about a defining moment in our nation’s past.
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