It was a crisp autumn morning. Drawn towards the clamor heard from a distance, a large crowd of several thousand had gathered. People had been assembling for some hours beforehand in various groups to get reacquainted and instructions for the day's events. Now they had formed into one group to march up the road to their destination with a slow and steady drumbeat. The tone of the drums and the procession was both serious and reverent, with a purpose felt within each person as tangible as the blue sky above. It was a time to "Occupy Gettysburg," but not to protest any real or perceived national problems of the day as has been the case in several cities around the country, but rather to honor and commemorate an historic event 148 years ago. These people were occupying the town of Gettysburg for Remembrance Day, an anniversary that is recognized every year for when President Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address in the midst of our Civil War.
Patriotism is certainly alive and well if measured by the "occupation force" in Gettysburg last weekend. From a family of historians and Civil War reenactors, Remembrance Day is certainly an event not to be missed. Along with fellow enthusiasts, thousands came to participate as well as to observe, including families and all-American groups such as the Girl and Boy Scouts. Ceremonies were held at various state monuments throughout the park with traditional drum and fife music, including a parade to the National Cemetery to hear the Gettysburg Address. It was here in the town of Gettysburg, Pa., that ground was set aside and a cemetery established for the thousands that died during the three-day battle in July 1863. The only battle fought in northern territory, it was a turning point that gave hope that the Union might prevail in the great conflict.
Sadly, however, the wake of the battle left a nightmare of dead and mutilated men. Volunteers from Gettysburg and surrounding towns did the best they could do to collect the wounded and dead, which took weeks and weeks to accomplish with some men never found or accounted for from those three days. President Lincoln, some four months later, came to dedicate the cemetery.
Mr. Getty, a local Gettysburg resident, was the featured speaker at the recent “Occupy Gettysburg” event, otherwise known as Remembrance Day in honor of the first Gettysburg Address in 1863.
A speech with a message that was initially thought to be one that would pass away in time, has instead gone down in history as one of the greatest ever given. Lincoln's speech captured the heart and soul of the country and echoes words that still resonate in us today. Who doesn't get a chill when thinking of the meaning of such words as, "From these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Our nation, which was not even 100 years old in 1863, was too young to die. Men and women had sacrificed much to give birth to our country and Constitution. Lincoln's speech resounded with our American spirit to keep our nation alive with a government whose purpose was to protect our God-given rights. Here we are today, now almost 150 years later. Who is willing to be educated about our great past, teach others, and be an active and responsible citizen?
At this time of Thanksgiving and upcoming holiday season, who will make the effort to minimize the materialistic aspect of it and hold fast to time honored values of family and faith upon which our nation was founded? It requires action. We can sit around and complain or be ignorantly complacent.
We can also do something. Know our past, teach others, vote, go to church, pray, be a literacy volunteer, give blood, visit the elderly and lonely, and so on. For those of the "Occupy Movement" highlighting the power of money and corporations, it has been the long-held opinion in this column that one effective change in this area will come about when we stop buying foreign-made goods, especially those from China. Together, even in relatively small numbers, we have economic power. Corporations would be forced to change and bring jobs home if we refused to buy their goods unless made in the USA. That's what the American colonists did. They wore home-spun clothes rather than pay the taxes on cloth from England. For those in the "Occupy Fredonia" movement or any other, during the chilly weather while calling attention to problems, did you look at your coat label? It is in simple things that great change can come about.
Make it a good week and do something in your own circle of influence for your community and country, Mary and Rosamond
Send comments on this column to firstname.lastname@example.org