Those in the Unmarked Graves

History doesn’t remember the men in the unmarked graves. The ones whose names are forever lost to time. Being immortalized in glory is one way to justify sacrifice, a way to understand and make sense of all that is lost when we know what was gained.

But what about those men? The ones who gained neither infamy nor historical glory, but lost everything?

In Washington Square in Philadelphia near Independence Hall, there lies a mass unmarked grave of soldiers in Washington’s army who died during the Revolutionary War. Thousands of unknown soldiers. The quotes on the memorial are haunting, the words giving voice to those who lie beneath. I can’t help but think somehow the sacrifice of the unknowns, at least to me, is more impactful. These silent stories, these nameless ghosts who gave of themselves unto death for the hope, the idea and the tentative promise of something good. What would they think, if they could see the fruits of their sacrifice? I wonder. Would they be proud? Would they see the justification of it all? Or would they, knowing what comes to pass, be woeful of their choice to lose their lives and their names to history becoming one of the unmarked? But then I think, maybe the outcome wouldn’t matter so much.

They followed through on their convictions, giving generations hope, they chased freedom unto death. Because I came after, I simply reap the rewards of battles I’ve never had to fight. I’ve barely given thought or pause to men such as these, remembering along with history the figures whose names endured. However, thinking about these somehow makes the history of the Revolutionary War a little different. Their echoes are louder, somehow, their faded memory a glimpse into what it was like to believe in something enough to die for it. A concept that’s intriguing, heavy and thought-provoking.

A flame that never goes out remains on the memorial of the unmarked, a sobering reminder of things we should remember but often lose in the clutter and noise of the every day and the passing years. But what really struck me was this quote emblazoned on the memorial of the unmarked soldiers, “Freedom is a light for which many men have died in darkness.” May it be the nameless and unknown are never forgotten. Their voices scream the loudest for us to remember.


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