A few weeks ago, I had military duty. This particular Reserve weekend was different though. Instead of training, we went on a “field trip” per say. My Soldiers and I traveled to the Andersonville National Historic Site. My noncommissioned officers and I thought it was important for the Soldiers to learn some history, and get out of the Reserve Center for a day. So, we walked around the site, imagining what it must have been like to serve back in those days.
For those not familiar with Andersonville, here is summary of what it is…
“The Camp Sumter military prison at Andersonville was one of the largest Confederate military prisons during the Civil War. During the 14 months the prison existed, more than 45,000 Union soldiers were confined here. Of these, almost 13,000 died here. Today, Andersonville National Historic Site is a memorial to all American prisoners of war throughout the nation’s history.”
The site is mainly a big field, which is where the prisoners were kept. However, there is a small museum located there as well. Inside this are a number of artifacts from the Civil War, but also of other POWs from other wars. One of the most moving portions of the museum (at least to me) was the section for POWs families. There were letters, video clips and stories about how the families dealt with the waiting, the unknown, and if they were lucky, the return of their Soldier. But their battle did not end there. Naturally, there is an adjustment period for a family who has been reunited after having gone through such a stressful experience.
What made the event even more special was our guest speaker, Army Maj. (retired) Bill Spies. Mr. Spies is a Hall of Fame Ranger served in Vietnam and worked closely with their Soldiers who helped us try to recover our POWs. He spoke to my Soldiers about leadership and honor. What a privilege it was to have him accompany us.
Throughout the day, I saw my Soldiers in thoughtful reflection. They were reading historical markers. And, I saw them bonding together as a team and interacting with a living war hero. It was a different day, a different kind of training. Perhaps a “reach” for the typical training calendar. However, I think that when we reach for new things and knowledge, that is when we really grow.