July 1, 1863…
The largest military conflict in North American history began when Union and Confederate forces collided at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The epic battle lasted three days and resulted in a retreat to Virginia by Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.
Throughout my military career, and even still today, I am an avid consumer of military history. When it comes to the Battle at Gettysburg I have continually been awed by the decisions and actions of Colonel Joshua Chamberlain. I have read Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel, The Killer Angels, and watched Jeff Daniels remarkably play Chamberlain in the movie Gettysburg. However, it was not until I had the privilege of taking a group of my Marines to the actual battlefield that I truly understood this tragic conflict.
Together, we climbed the slope of Little Round Top and walked the path of Pickett’s Charge. We studied the defensive positions on Cemetery Hill and continually discussed the decision-making of opposing Generals Lee and Meade. From human factors to combined arms, we immersed ourselves in the significance of this three-day battle.
During a moment of reflection on the hallowed ground of Little Round Top, I paused to think about the decisions Chamberlain had to make. Against all odds, he stubbornly and courageously rallied his forces. Many historians claim his actions saved the day and possibly turned the tide of the Civil War. For his actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. His citation simply stated: “For daring heroism and great tenacity in holding his position on the Little Round Top against repeated assaults, and carrying the advance position on Big Round Top.”
It has been five years since I was last at Gettysburg. I no longer view Chamberlain’s actions through the lens of a fighter leader. I now view his actions through the lens of a father leader.
The battlefield I must now protect and hold is called my home. At stake is the hearts and minds of my wife and children.
The world will continually tell my wife and children lies about their identity.
They will continually be presented with expectations that drown their worth.
They will continually be attacked….
But like Chamberlain, I will not back down. I will continue to love, lead and serve well. I will continue to point them to the Father who created us for His glory.
I have always been amazed at how one man can change the course of a battle. Husbands and fathers, more than ever before, I believe it is our duty to now do so. Will you join me?