I’m one of the first men to play an active role in our foster sons’ lives. They are 9 and 11.
It’s terrifying and weighty.
We talk often about being men of courage and responsibility.
Men who use our strength to protect people who are littler than us. Who use our strength for the good of women. Who take responsibility and don’t holler “not me” at each topple of the milk carton. (There are, of course, lots of other things good men do. But we eat the elephant one bite at a time.)
And so, on Memorial Day, I took them to the place where courage and responsibility rests eternal. The nearest National Cemetery.
We walked through the rows of identical gravestones. Talked about how these women and men took responsibility and showed courage. How they paid for our freedom. How we show respect by speaking quietly and walking slowly.
We came across different gravestones. Instead of round tops, pointed tops. These were the final resting places of Confederate dead.
Our boys are African American.
These dead fought to keep our boys’ ancestors enslaved.
And so we had an entirely different discussion. About how these men fought for their country, but were on the wrong side of justice. The wrong side of history. The wrong side period.
We talked about how not all of them were evil, but some were, and what they fought for was. Walking with these two young men of color, I choked back tears as we passed through this field of confederate dead and a thousand confederate flags snapping in the breeze.
At last, we found the grave of a Union soldier named Harley. Together, we knelt. Touched his grave and offered a prayer. The boys thanked Harley for his courage. For fighting to end slavery.
And then we were silent. Three men with three different life experiences. Grateful for people like Harley, who fought so we could stay free.
Who fought to make us free.