Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,
I have fallen victim recently to bitter resentment when I think of the state of our republic today, and the ideals for which so many have marched to war to defend, never to return. So many of our “countrymen” seem to have thrown away that which our honored fallen gave all to preserve. But then I remember that no matter how bleak our current situation seems, things have been bleaker. And the men we honor today rose up during those bleak times and faced the evil of their day as free men, as patriots, as Americans. And they paid for future generations to have the ability to the do the same; as free men, as patriots, as citizens. So I vow that I WILL live my life as to be worthy of their sacrifice, that I WILL ensure that future generations can live as citizens of a free republic. I WILL continue to carry the torch that they fell to keep lit, and I WILL pass that torch on.
Words from a different war, facing a different foe, but for 238 years men who instinctively understood this marched to war to defend the ideals of liberty and freedom. They did not march to war to conquer, or for greed or plunder, or because a king commanded them to. They went as citizens fighting for a cause greater than themselves. And they gave their futures for generations yet unborn.
That I will honor.
“To be born free is an accident.
To live free a privilege.
To die free a responsibility.”
Brigadier General James “Robbie” Risner