There are some places that just feel special. Then there are others that feel like holy ground. I had that kind of experience recently aboard the USS Yorktown in Charleston recently.
The night we checked into our hotel, I saw that there was a Medal of Honor Museum in the area. I didn’t realize it was onboard the Yorktown itself. Right after entering through one of the large hangar bays off to the left of the reception desk that was staffed by docents is the Medal of Honor Museum. There are apparently several around the country…but this one was designed and apparently somewhat managed by recipients of this honor themselves.
The Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest military honor that can bestowed by the United States. It is given to very, very few who have acted with incredible heroism and selflessness. Few live to receive it because they gave their lives to save others.
And so, as I saw the entrance to the museum behind glass doors, I was almost afraid to go in. I hold those who have served in the military in such high regard in general, but the Medal of Honor recipients are deserving of an even higher position and honor in the esteem of every American. I finally opened the door and stepped inside…and I felt that I was on hallowed ground. We made our way through, reading some of the stories, watching some of the video clip interviews of those who knew these brave men and women. It was sobering to realize the bravery and sacrifice of those who received the honor. It was deeply moving. I felt so small and undeserving of the price they paid for my freedom.
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1864, legend holds that on this day in 1864, President Abraham Lincoln composes a letter to Lydia Bixby, a widow and mother of five men who had been killed in the Civil War. A copy of the letter was then published in the Boston Evening Transcripton November 25 and signed “Abraham Lincoln.” The original letter has never been found.
The letter expressed condolences to Mrs. Bixby on the death of her five sons, who had fought to preserve the Union in the Civil War. The author regrets how “weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming.” He continued with a prayer that “our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement [and leave you] 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.”
Scholars continue to debate the authorship of the letter, and the authenticity of copies printed between 1864 and 1891. At the time, copies of presidential messages were often published and sold as souvenirs. Many historians and archivists agree that the original letter was probably written by Lincoln’s secretary, John Hay. As to Mrs. Bixby’s loss, scholars have discovered that only two of her sons actually died fighting during the Civil War. A third was honorably discharged and a fourth was dishonorably thrown out of the Army. The fifth son’s fate is unknown, but it is assumed that he deserted or died in a Confederate prison camp. Despite its dubious origins, the letter’s text became even more famous when it was quoted in Steven Spielberg’s World War II film epic Saving Private Ryan (1998).
TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Proportionally, hash browns have more fat and calories than a cheeseburger or Big Mac.