I stood in the middle of the Antietam Battlefield today.
This is hallowed ground.
The battles that took place here during the American Civil War were so fierce, so bloody and so devastating that more lives were lost than had been in the War of 1812, The Spanish/American War, and the Revolutionary War combined.
There we stood.
Monuments, as well as original and restored structures all around us.
The movie we had watched in the Visitor's Center told us that during the morning following the battle, all that could be heard in the air throughout the fields and surrounding town were the moans and cries of the men.
How sobering. How very sobering.
My children and I made the Sign of the Cross as we stood amidst the corn fields where so much blood had been shed. We thanked God for our freedom. We prayed for the souls of those who gave their lives and those who had to go on living without them. We offered the Lord's prayer and we sang "My Country 'Tis of Thee".
As we made our way along the roads and trails, we came to the National Antietam Cemetery.
Thousands laid to rest...many with "unkown" markers.
We lingered when we came to the rows and rows of Pennsylvania fallen.
My daughter, 16, kept slowly turning 'round in circles looking out over the vast expanse of plots, saying, "This is amazing. Every single one of these people has a history and yet, we'll never know what it is...even those in the unknown graves have histories".
What a thought.
I pondered this for a while.
I wondered about the wives, the daughters, the sons, the grand-parents, the employers, the brothers and sisters and neighbors and pastors...who had to "hear the word" that their loved one or friend had died in battle.
We do not know who they are nor what their lives were like afterward.
As I considered the events that led up to "this place", "this place of REST" and tried to formulate a "history" of each in my own mind...a thought came to me that was so comforting, so pleasing, and so real...
GOD knows their histories...every single one of them...He even knows the full name of each unknown soldier!
He knows how they died, where they died, why they died.
He was with them the day they were born and with them the day they fell.
HE IS WITH THEM NOW.
Not a single moment in their lives was in vain or remains unknown for GOD knows all...truer still...
GOD knows EACH.
On September 17, 1862, America found herself in the midst of the bloodiest single battle in her history:
23,000 killed, wounded, or missing.
God created every single one of those 23,000 and though we would not recognize many of their faces were they standing next to us today...HE would...for He was their Father as He is our own.
And so, as I turned to leave the cemetery and looked back over my shoulder one last time...I smiled...for there is really no such thing as "an unknown soldier", is there?