Sam Burnham, Curator
Korea has been in the news a lot lately. I shared a photo from this weekend over on our Instagram account. A visit to the Korean War Memorial in Washington gave me a face-to-face encounter that I can’t get out of my mind.
The memorial is truly poignant. The 19 men represented stand in their heavy gear to brace them against the harsh weather. They are all alert, they are looking around for any hint of danger. Then I saw him.
These are the kinds of statues that follow you with their eyes. This one statue caught my attention. I thought he might speak. In a way I wished he would. I knew I was looking at an inanimate metal object but in that moment the artist’s goal was achieved. I connected. I wasn’t looking at a piece of metal, I was face to face with a 19 year old who was thousands of miles from home and scared of what the next moment had in store for him. He was tired, cold, and homesick. But he was also vigilant and brave. The fear and bitter cold weren’t keeping him from his duty.
In that hat moment I wished he’d unload some of it. I wished he’d tell me what he was thinking, what his hopes were, how scared and tired he was, how bad he wanted to get out.
At the same time there was the feeling, the realization that one thing he would say is that we need to make that moment worth it. We need to live free, support freedom at home, demand our rights as Americans because of Americans like him who went far from home to defend those freedoms.
But most of all, the message that was reinforced in me is that if we are going to send our kids where this man had gone, be it in Europe, Asia, Africa, wherever, it had better be for the cause of liberty. It had better be justified. We had better be prepared to support them when they come home, to deal with the task we sent them to do.
And that needs to be in all of our minds any time we talk about war. Look into this face. Catch that glance. Know where you’re sending him. He’ll go. That’s what he does. Let’s not send him flippantly.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire