Today, on this Memorial Day, we honor the 1.3 million Americans who have died while serving in the U.S. military. Each of them left the security of their homes to defend ours. They left their families and sacrificed greatly. They paid the ultimate price for their nation and for each of us. It’s our duty to remember those who fought for us.
“We sleep safely at night because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would harm us.” — George Orwell
In 1889 President Benjamin Harrison appointed Wallace Bruce to serve as U.S. Consul to Edinburgh. Serving there, Bruce’s wife, Annie, met a poor Scots woman who was applying for a widow’s pension at the American Consulate. The woman’s husband, Sergeant-Major John McEwan, served in the Union Army with 65th Regiment of the Illinois Volunteer Rifles before moving back to his homeland of Scotland where he struggled with poverty and medical problems. When he died his family could not afford to properly bury him and his body was placed in an unmarked pauper’s grave.
Moved to honor McEwan in memory of others who had fought for freedom in the U.S., Bruce asked the Edinburgh Town Council to provide a plot in the Old Calton Cemetery for the Scots who had served in the Civil War and then began to campaign among his American friends for funds to build a memorial atop the plot. The American sculptor George E. Bissell executed the memorial, which features two bronze figures: Abraham Lincoln and a freed slave, as well as the names of the soldiers, McEwan among them, who fought in the war.
Wallace Bruce described the fallen heroes we remember today:
“Who kept the faith and fought the fight;
The glory theirs, the duty ours.”