By Michael StrasserMay 24, 2018
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (May 24, 2018) -- Brig. Gen. Patrick Donahoe, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum deputy commanding general, joined 15 Soldiers from across the division and members of the Fort Drum Natural Resources Branch on May 24 to honor veterans buried in the "Lost Villages" cemeteries on post.
"This is about honoring the service and sacrifices of those who fought and died for our nation, but also about the sacrifices that families make," Donahoe said. "It is worth our time to do this."
At Woods Mills cemetery, Soldiers planted flags and helped clean gravestones and markers. Donahoe spoke to the group at the Randall family gravesite. He asked them to imagine John Randall, already in his late 40s, enlisting as a private to join his two sons in the 35th New York Infantry Regiment to fight in the Civil War.
"Somewhere up here, in one of the houses that is no longer here, he had to sit across from the dinner table and tell his wife, Almena, that he is going to follow the boys into combat," Donahoe said. "She has to run the farmstead herself after her sons and husband enlist. She has to make that farm profitable, and that's a whole other story about life in the North Country and the families that made lives for themselves here."
Randall and his sons were assigned to C Company in what was commonly known as the Jefferson County Regiment, and they survived the slaughter at South Mountain and bloody battle of Antietam. Both in Maryland.
In the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, the father was hit by cannon fire, which also mortally wounded his oldest son, Artemis, on Dec. 12, 1862. Upon hearing the family's plight, President Abraham Lincoln ordered the surviving son, Nelson, home to comfort his grieving mother.
"This is an incredible tale of sacrifice," Donahoe said. "About 1,400 Union Soldiers dead in Fredericksburg, and two of them are father and son. Imagine the grief as Nelson sees it happen. Imagine Nelson sometime later showing up at Woods Mills and telling his mother and two sisters what happened. That's sacrifice."
Dr. Laurie Rush, Cultural Resources Program manager, said that the flag planting has been a Memorial Day tradition conducted mostly by members of her staff, but having the participation of Soldiers always makes it a more poignant community service event.
"I think it's wonderful that these Soldiers came out here to do this," she said. "One Soldier even thanked me for the experience."
Rush said she heard one Soldier remark that "someday we're going to be veterans, and maybe people will do this for us."
Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War Soldiers and a day to honor the nation's Civil War dead by decorating their graves. It is now recognized as a day of national awareness and reverence, honoring all the military men and women who gave their lives in defense of the nation.