Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day 2007

“I hope that on Memorial Day when people think about our soldiers, they won’t just think about the ones who died—they’ll think about those who came back different,” said the woman caller.

Tom Ashbrook, host of On Point, probed gently, asking if there was anyone specific the woman had in mind.

“My husband. He came back from Iraq, and…he’s different. Because of what he saw…and went through,” she struggled with the words.

On Memorial Day, we pause and remember the dead. But that’s not enough. A count of headstones does not include all those who sacrifice for our nation. Some die on the battlefield or in hospitals far from home. But others return marred, scarred, and changed: never the men (or women) they once were. They, too, give their all.

Take Arthur Middleton, for example. In 1776, he was a delegate to the Continental Congress. A Cambridge graduate, he was more radical than his father, Henry, who served as the second President of the Continental Congress, and thus the leader of what was to become the United States from Oct. 22, 1774 to May 10, 1775.

Arthur’s attitude toward Loyalists was said to be ruthless. When he pledged his life, his liberty and his sacred honor, he meant exactly that. In 1781, Charleston, South Carolina, was overrun by General Clinton and the British army. Arthur Middleton was asked to swear a new loyalty oath. In John Jakes’ bestseller Charleston, he writes, “Many important names—Middleton, Pinckney, Manigault, Hayne—obliged.”

Jakes has it wrong. Very, very, badly wrong.

Arthur Middleton refused. So did Pinckney.

Middleton taken prisoner, thrown onto a British warship and taken to a jail in St. Augustine, Florida. There in a small coquina cell, with vaulted ceiling and wet walls, he carved his name—a twin to the bold signature on the Declaration of Independence. He was held more than a year before he was exchanged in a prisoner swap. By then, most of his fortune was gone.

He died at age 44, about four years later. The legend beneath his portrait in the Charleston Museum, suggests he died of an illness contracted while in prison, which possibly would have been malaria.

Arthur Middleton is buried at his family home Middleton Place. To see it go to Or rent The Patriot (Mel Gibson), and you’ll see footage of the gardens and the house’s interior.

So Arthur Middleton did not die on a battlefield, but he gave his life in service to our country. As the caller to On Point suggested, on Memorial Day we need to remember all those who have served, both living and dead.

Today as we put up our flag, I said a prayer for all the soldiers and patriots in my family, including my ancestor Arthur Middleton.


Anonymous said...

Thank You for remembering ALL the heros.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

I'm sure I couldn't possibly cover them all--so many serve in so many ways. thoughts, prayers and appreciation went out to all, even those I can't imagine.

And to their families, those who bear the additional burden of standing by, supporting, and loving our heros.