Thought some of you folks might like to see what Ranger Dan looks like in his official NPS hat.
On Memorial Day, despite the temperature soaring near 100 degrees, I took some time to head over to the National Cemetery in the afternoon to help my friend and colleague Ranger Brian Baracz out with a special program. Brian had the tour that afternoon, and at the end of his tour he brought part of his group up to the cemetery to tell a few stories that were fitting for Memorial Day. Here, in the background, you can see the "Old Simon" soldier's monument with the Memorial Day wreaths sitting in front of it.
After Brian made a few opening remarks, he began to lead his group through the cemetery, pointing out important landmarks such as the grave site for the 4 soldiers from the Irish Brigade who were found in the late 1980s near Bloody Lane. When we neared the middle of the cemetery, Brian graciously let me talk for a few minutes about the graves of unkown soldiers. I described the burial process, as well as how some soldiers ended up being unkown. Keep in mind, these were the days before dogtags, and soldier identification was often done based solely on either personal recognition or personal items the soldier may have had on his person. After describing this process, I proceeded to tell the story of Elwood Rodebaugh, a soldier from Antietam who is buried in an unknown grave. I always try to make sure that visitors understand that the men who fought at Antietam were real individuals just like you and I, and that they should be remembered as such. I hope that Elwood's story helps to provide a personal touch to the battlefield stories. Describing in detail a man who is buried as an unknown takes a different angle on an often told story. It was in keeping with the theme I had incorporated into each of my talks this past weekend, a theme which I try to convey to each visitor I speak encounter, that while some soldier's identities and fates may be unknown, their sacrifices and importance must never be forgotten.
Any good historian is always sticking to his sources...
The quote I am reading here is from an Ohio soldier. This soldier did not fight at Antietam, in fact, he fought in the western armies during the war. The quote is from David Blair of Company D, 45th Ohio, and was part of a letter home on September 20, 1864:
"Old soldiers are forgotten before their time is out except by a few intimate friends. But that is all we want, the support and encouragement of "Dear ones, at home" and of a clear consciousness of having done our duty...."
Remember to never let "old soldiers" be forgotten, and always strive to support and encourage those who continue to serve our country today. Let's make sure that all of us are the "dear ones, at home" who support the men and women of our armed forces.