Battlefield: A Face of America Commentary

By Tony Mussari
Copyright 2010
The Face of America Project
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

I saw the face of America today in a place that will always be forever young, forever sacred and forever a bridge from America’s past to America’s future.

I saw the face of America today in a place that was born and raised in the blood of men who believed in their cause.

I saw the face of America today in a place that compels people to think about matters that most would like to forget.

I saw the face of America today on the rich country fields that captured the attention of a nation at war with itself for three of the longest days in our history.

It was a battle of contradictions, complications, complacencies and consequences that filled this place with heroic men performing heroic deeds on a scale larger than anyone had ever seen in this country.  On both sides of the line, they did it with valor.  They did it with honor. They did it with reckless abandon for themselves.

For this time and place the numbers were staggering: 160,000 men in arms; 51,000 casualties. A mark that even to this day is shocking and significant beyond measure. It forces one to remember the brutality of war so aptly described by one of the legendary commanders of this place.

We are never quite prepared for so many to die…we are prepared to lose some of us, but we are never prepared to lose all of us. And there is the great trap… When you attack, you must hold nothing back. You must commit yourself totally. We are adrift here in a sea of blood and I want it to end. I want this to be the final battle.  General Robert E. Lee

In this place of dignity and honor, towering reminders of this war and its combatants reach up to the heavens singing praise for those who produced the unforgettable sights and sounds of this historic place.

In quiet moments of reflection, the words that sanctified this place are carried by the gentle winds of spring directly to one’s heart:

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us- that from the 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. President Abraham Lincoln

I saw the face of America today in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  I saw it in the faces of the visitors who came to connect with the past.  I saw it in the monuments that reach up to the heavens asking for perspective. I felt it in the reverent silence that creates a climate of peace, understanding and reconciliation.  

What I experienced here in this place of honor on a beautiful April afternoon, I will carry with me for all the Aprils that will follow, because once you visit Gettysburg you never go home the same.

General Robert E. Lee was right: To be a good soldier you must love the army. To be a good commander you must be able to order the death of the thing you love.


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