Memorial Day - Honoring Our Local Heroes Who Gave Their Life for our Freedom

Sunday, May 30, 2021

What is Memorial Day?  According to, 'Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.  Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.'

Over the past few years, I've observed some confusion on social media over this special day of observance, particularly in confusing Memorial Day with Veteran's Day....both days honoring veterans, but one specifically honoring veterans who died in the line of duty.  If you read my recent blog post, you know that we recently discovered John's third great grandfather, Michael O'Sullivan.  Michael was an Irish immigrant who lied about his age in order to fight in the civil war.  He was shot through the thigh and although he did not die from his wounds during the war, he died later as a result of complications the injury caused.  He is one of the brave we honor this holiday.

Over the years I've visited and photographed the Gerald B.H. Solomon National Cemetery a number of times and have featured it here on the blog.  Recently we discovered another cemetery that is the resting place for soldiers who gave their lives for ours.....that is the Soldiers' Lot in the Albany Rural Cemetery.  Although not as vast or majestic as the unending fields of grave markers at the national cemeteries, the Soldiers' Lot is equally as sobering.  

"Nestled on the grounds of one of the nation’s oldest rural cemeteries, the Soldiers’ Lot in the Albany Rural Cemetery is the final resting place for 149 Union soldiers, many who died of injury or illness in hospitals around Albany during the Civil War. The lot is located in the North Ridge section of the 467-acre cemetery.  The Soldiers’ Lot is located along North Ridge Road at Lot 7, Section 75.  The Albany Rural Cemetery Association donated the 0.16-acre lot to the Federal Government in June 1862 for the purpose of interring soldiers who died in the Albany region.  Most of the interments are soldiers who died while in Albany’s Civil War hospitals. The last burial in 1897 brought the total number of interments in the lot to 149.

Standing 15-feet high, the only monument in the Soldiers’ Lot is the Grand Army of the Republic monument, which commemorates the local men who lost their lives during the Civil War.  The monument, constructed in 1873, features a bronze statue of a Union soldier atop a tall granite base. Bronze plaques attached to the base list the names of the fallen soldiers.  Also attached to the base is a bronze plaque featuring a bas-relief portrait of President Abraham Lincoln.  Albany Rural Cemetery is the final resting place for numerous political leaders. Chester A. Arthur, the twenty-first president of the United States, is buried in the cemetery, as are eight presidential cabinet secretaries, five U.S. senators, 32 U.S. representatives, and two U.S. Supreme Court justices.  The cemetery also contains the remains of Colonial and Revolutionary-era figures, including twelve assemblymen of the New York Colony and six members of the Continental Congress. " (Text courtesy of the Albany Rural Cemetery website).

According to a book about Albany Rural Cemetery, written by Paul Grondahl (former Times Union reporter), "The cemetery association’s records noted the lot was donated with a resolution “that a sufficient and suitable ground be set apart to inter the remains of officers and soldiers who have fallen or may fall in endeavoring to suppress the present rebellion.” A total of 1,030 Civil War soldiers and sailors have been identified as buried in the cemetery, based on the research of Civil War historian Michael Bodnar, including six Medal of Honor recipients, 26 generals and three Confederate soldiers. Most are buried in private family plots. Those in the Soldiers’ Lot included many men whose families could not afford to bury them privately. Over the decades, the ground settled and some gravestones shifted. A major restoration was completed in the fall of 2013. The marble gravestones once more stand in perfectly straight ranks as a stirring tribute to the Union soldiers who gave their lives to preserve the republic. (These Exalted Acres: Unlocking the Secrets of Albany Rural Cemetery)

Unless you are married to a military member, or have one in your family, I think it's easy, on a daily basis, to forget the sacrifices our military make for our freedom.   Even as we watch the national news and witness the unrest in other countries, even as we have ancestors who fought in the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Vietnam and so many since, we take for granted the price so many have paid for the liberty and justice we have in our country today.  These men and women gave their lives so that we could have our lives, our freedom, our country.  They deserve so much more than one day of recognition, but isn't it the very least we can do to remember their sacrifice.  Consider paying a visit to a cemetery this week - the National Cemetery, the Albany Rural Cemetery or any cemetery and pay your respects and pray a prayer of thanksgiving for every service member who gave their life for you and for me.

From Father Denis O'Brien of the US Marine Corp:
It is the soldier, not the reporter, 
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet,
Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus organizer,
who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier who salutes the flag,
who serves beneath the flag, 
and whose coffin is draped by the flag, 
who allows the protestor to burn the flag. 

And one last thought, a prayer if you will....For those who have sacrificed their lives so that we may be free -
We remember you, we honor you, we love you and
we humbly thank you for your service.  A simple 'thank you' is not
enough for all that you've endured.  We pray that you live on
through the loving memories shared by your family and loved ones.
We pray that the strife, battles and wounds of war be calmed for eternity in God's loving grace.
May you find rest at last and know that those left behind cherish your spirit,
honor your commitment, send their love and will never forget your sacrifice.

To purchase Paul Grondahl's book, These Exalted Acres: Unlocking the Secrets of Albany Rural Cemetery, link is provided here: These Exalted Acres

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