Monday, November 4, 2013

The Gettysburg Illumination

The annual Gettysburg Illumination will be held again this year as part of the 150th Anniversary Remembrance Weekend festivities. This will be the 11th anniversary of the luminary event. 

From the Gettysburg Foundation website, for those who might like more info or to volunteer to help:

11th Annual Remembrance Illumination 
November 23, 2013 
Soldiers’ National Cemetery
5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. 

On the 150th anniversary weekend of the Gettysburg Address, the Gettysburg Foundation will light a luminary candle on each Civil War soldier’s grave in the Gettysburg National Cemetery. The candle lighting is a solemn commemoration of the sacrifices made on this and other battlefields. Please join the Gettysburg Foundation as part of this tribute by sponsoring a candle of by volunteering on the day of the event. 

Luminary candles can be sponsored by individuals or groups for $18.63 per candle. In order for the sponsorships to be in the program, they must be received by November 1, 2013. Sponsorships may be made “in honor of” or “in memory of” a person or a group and they are limied to one-hundred characters. Please note sponsorship in the comment box below. 

Volunteers are needed to help set-up, greet, and clean-up the cemetery. Set-up volunteers are needed from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Greeters may sign up for one-hour shifts at the Taneytown Road entrance and Baltimore Street entrance of Soldiers’ National Cemetery. Readers are needed to read the names of the fallen soldiers from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Clean-up volunteers meet at 9:30 p.m. and assist until the cemetery is cleaned up. Volunteer spots are limited, please register early. Volunteers will be taken on a first-come, first-serve basis. If interested in volunteering, please e-mail Ann Swade, Events Logistics Coordinator,

This is a very moving, very somber, and very emotional event. If you've never attended, it's really something you should check out. If you've been there before you know exactly what I mean. There's no way to come out of the cemetery and not be brought almost to tears when you think about the number of luminaries and that each one represents a life. The snuffing of the candles when the event ends is significant and in a way represents the snuffing out of a young life, in often before the person truly got to live. For many, going to war was the one great adventure of their lives; unfortunately a lot of those who went paid the ultimate price for their great adventure.

As seen in the photos, each grave in the National Cemetery receives a luminary candle and a flag. The event begins at sunset on November 16, and it ends with the closing of the cemetery at 9:30. Throughout the cemetery various reenactors and living historians will be paying respects and providing an honor guard. Greeters at the gates will welcome those coming in and answer questions. There also will be a name-reading of all of the Battle of Gettysburg dead in the cemetery.

Go to this event if you can, help if you can, and savor the experience. Much like the Antietam Illumination or a visit to the Holocaust Museum, you'll come out of it with a feeling of sadness and loss, but also a feeling of pride for what their sacrifices achieved.

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