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I am a lifelong student of military history with particular interest in the Battle of Antietam. I work for the federal government in Washington DC and have two teenagers who I love very much. I currently volunteer at the battlefield and devote much time to the study of this battle and the Maryland Campaign. I enjoy collecting notable contemporary quotations by and about the men of Antietam. These words often add a degree of color and character not found elsewhere in their stories. A feature of this blog is the presentation of some of these quotes. My perspective comes from a 28 year career in the U.S. Army. Travels took me to World War II battlefields in Europe and the Pacific where American valor ended the tyranny of Nazism and Empire. But our country faced its own greatest challenge 80 years earlier during the Civil War. And it was the critical late summer of 1862, when Robert E. Lee launched the Maryland Campaign that fortune could have gone either way. It is an incredible story of drama, carnage, bravery, and missed opportunities that culminated around the fields and woodlots of peaceful Sharpsburg MD. So join me as I make this journey South from the North Woods.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Semper Fidelis "Always Faithful"


Serving our country has a whole new meaning today. Today at 4:20 PM, his mother, sister, and I dropped my 19 year old son Jimmy off at the Marine Corps recruiter in Frederick Maryland. Jimmy departs for boot camp at Parris Island South Carolina in the morning. My last view was of him in his red Marine Corps T-shirt, jumping into a van with two other boys and pulling out with their recruiter. He joins his first cousin Paul who is already in boot camp in San Diego.

In our nation's history, there have been millions of moments like this. In the abstract and aggregate, these are moving scenes to be sure but when you are the parent of the son or daughter who is heading off, it takes on a whole new, very immediate, and heartfelt meaning.

Jim is the oldest of my two children and my only son. He is a lot different than I am in many ways but we share a lot of the same core interests and values. Like me, Jimmy has become very involved with activities at Antietam National Battlefield. At the age of 17, he worked in the Youth Conservation Corps in the summer of 2008 building fences and trails for the park with the Natural Resources Division. In 2009, he worked in the museum bookstore at the battlefield. He also began volunteering and became a member of Antietam's all volunteer Battery B, 4th United States Artillery unit. At our last shoot on August 28, Jimmy got moved up to the gunner 4 position and and got to pull the lanyard firing the Napoleon for the first time. Jimmy portrayed an Iron Brigade soldier "volunteered into the battery." After this shoot, the members of Battery B to my pleasant surprise presented Jimmy with the Hardee hat he wore, as a permanent memento of his service. I think the highest honor was when Jimmy was selected to be a member of the honor guard at the service last September where the remains of the New York soldier found in the Cornfield back in 2008 were transferred to the State of New York for interment at the VA Cemetery in Saratoga.

I served in the Army for many years but being the parent of a service member is an entirely new experience. It will take some getting used to. When we dropped him off, the recruiter gave us Jim's mailing address at boot camp. I rushed home, and finished a letter that I actually started a few days ago. As I walked out to the mail box carrying the letter and looking down at his name on the envelope, it really hit me that my son had grown into manhood and like millions of Americans in our nation's history before him, had elected military service - the highest and most honorable of callings. Semper Fidelis. Always Faithful Jimmy.

4 comments:

  1. Great blog Jim and good luck to your son Jim. He is a good man and will make a great Marine.

    Marty

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  2. Marty,
    Thanks so much. I cant help thinking here on September 11th that my son and nephew are picking up the sword and shield much like our generation did in our own times of youth years ago, and generations of other Americans did before that.
    Jim

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  3. Jim, I know how you feel. When I sent my son, Marshall, off to Navy boot camp 9 years ago, it was hard to let them go. I remember your son from the gift shop. I know he'll do you and our country proud.

    P.S. My dad and I just got back from Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, and Appomattox Courthouse. Great trip.
    Carol V.

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  4. Thanks Carol

    We are adjusting to the new reality of life with him gone but looking forward to his graduation in December. We are proud of his decision to serve but his absence is strongly felt by us.

    Your trip sounds like it was a good time. I have to get out to Appomattox sometime soon.

    Regards
    Jim

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