John Hennessy presenting the Memorial Day keynote address. Photo copyright Susan Larson.

By Susan Larson

Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park Chief Historian John Hennessy presented the keynote address at the Fredericksburg National Cemetery Memorial Day ceremony on May 25, 2015.

Hennessy is passionate about sharing his love for history with visitors in person and online via social media. He has worked for the National Park Service for 25 years, first at Manassas National Battlefield Park, then with the New York State Historic Preservation Office before coming to Fredericksburg.

Excerpts from John Hennessy’s Memorial Day 2015 Remarks

“This spring, we bring to a close the nation’s observance of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War. If you have walked with us through this journey, we thank you. I can say that for myself and the staff here at this park, this collective journey — across fields and streams and along city streets — has been the highlight of our careers. I hope you have gotten a sense of how immense the Civil War looms in our national experience and memory. We certainly have come to understand clearly how important remembering is to you and to our nation.”

Home
“He [James R. Woodworth] lies almost certainly among the unknown graves around us. He never made it home.

“The deaths of these men on these fields halted journeys home for thousands and sent shockwaves through households across America North and South, challenging the will of families, communities, states, and nations to continue.

“Continue they did, crippled by hardship, awash in heartbreak, civilian and soldier alike. It is a sad, difficult story to be sure. But the hardship endured in this or any war is also a measure of the commitment and determination of those who have toiled and sacrificed on our behalf. [emphasis John’s]

“They aspired to go home, but only after duty was done.

“Home is central to our path as a nation.”

Hope
“The hope of one generation often requires the efforts of many generations to be realized.

“We do not live in our moment. We bear constantly the aspirations of those who preceded us.

“Hope is the great engine that drives our constant, ongoing quest for a more perfect union.”

Devotion
“Devotion — to family, to each other, to our community, to our nation — is essential to the progress of our nation.”

Faith
“Faith is the foundation of the military experience. I don’t mean faith in God or a religion — though that’s certainly important to many. I mean the faith that a soldier must have in what we ask of him or her. When we ask a soldier to fight for this nation, he or she serves because he has faith the cause is worthy of the effort.”

“They have faith that what we are asking of them is reasonable, just, achievable, and necessary to the health of our nation.

“They have faith that we will value and appreciate their efforts and their sacrifices.”

Home, Hope, Devotion, and Faith

“And let us not fail to remember, as we stand among Americans who gave all to better our land:

“They did not sacrifice so we can mourn, they sacrificed so we might live in peace, in happiness, in a land of goodness. They sacrificed so we could continue their quest for a more perfect Union, a more secure nation — a notion of hope whose people constantly challenge each other to be better.”

More from Memorial Day 2015 in Fredericksburg, Va.

Thousands Attend 20th Annual Fredericksburg National Cemetery Luminaria

149th Memorial Day Observance at Fredericksburg Confederate Cemetery

Memorial Day Events in the Fredericksburg Area

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