Here is the letter:
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I
praythat our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only 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.
Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,
|Tomb of the Unknown Soldier|
But there is another altar beckoning your allegiance as well. Inscribed on its top, is the word "Security" and it offers the opposite of Freedom's Altar.... slavery! It says "give me your rights to privacy, your rights to congregate in public, your rights to not be searched, your rights to self protection, your rights to a trial by your peers". It offers a perfect world that it knows it cannot deliver.
Recently a father in Florida found a sheet of paper in his son's backpack from school that had the words:
"I am willing to give up some of my constitutional rights in order to be safer or more secure"scribbled in crayon. It was a homework assign done in class. You can see the full article here to see for yourself. Sadly, this teacher is not alone, for recently Mayor Bloomberg of New York City said that the Constitution will need to be redefined to provide a more secure world for our citizens. They hear Security's Altar calling them like the Sirens of Homer's Iliad calling ancient sailors to their destruction.
This past week we saw two terrorists attack one of our oldest sporting challenges in our country. Brought on by people who do not appreciate the freedom's they enjoy... the very freedom's that allowed them to do this horrible act. The people standing near the finish line never thought that THEY would pay the ultimate sacrifice for freedom (Isn't that reserved for soldiers in war?) but they did. Their parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, friends and grandparents will undoubtedly miss their presence and mourn their loss and nothing we say or do (like Lincoln) can ever "beguile them of their loss". But like Lydia Bixby, they have laid their souls on the altar of freedom.
The best way we can honor their sacrifice is to live our lives in the shadow of Freedom's Altar.