Memorial Day is not for BBQs and fireworks. It is to remember the men and women who have died for this country: the United States. Other countries also “celebrate” a day of remembrance. Since I was in elementary school, I’ve marched in parades or held some quiet moment to reflect on the sacrifices others have made. When I joined the 15th Alabama Co. G reenactment group, we marched in two parades each year in Gray and New Gloucester. But not this year with COVID. However, we have continued another ritual: remembering two fallen Civil War soldiers, one Northerner and one Southerner.
The story goes that Lieutenant Charles Colley of Gray, Maine was wounded at the battle of Cedar Mountain in 1862 and died shortly after. He was a part of the 10th Maine Infantry Regiment. His body was shipped back home for burial. When it arrived, the family opened the casket only to find a Confederate soldier, not their son. Rather than ship the body back or toss it somewhere, the Ladies of Gray buried this Confederate in the Gray cemetery. On the headstone, it simply reads:
A soldier of the late war
Each year, my unit tells the story of Lt. Colley and The Stranger. We fire three volleys for each and appreciate the freedoms we have today. This year we also remembered our friend, Chris, who passed away recently. On the final volley for the Confederate and Union man, a portion of Chris was poured down our rifle barrels and fired out. Chris was the President of our unit for years and the company surgeon. He was also a retired teacher and active in many reenacting communities.
To me, Chris was a mentor and role model. When I first joined the reenactment unit, he helped me feel welcome and included. At events, when I was “wounded”, Chris would fix me up and we both had a lot of fun acting that out. He was respectful, kind, humorous, and intelligent. I’m grateful for the time we had.
So, thank you, Chris, for your leadership. And thank you to all those who have died fighting for the freedoms we have today.