Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: History — Rick Moran @ 8:55 am

There are some cemeteries in my little corner of America that are surprisingly old. I say that because there is so much newness surrounding us here that it’s easy to forget that this part of Illinois was settled before the Civil War. First the fur traders, then the farmers, and finally the merchant and the railroad man began to fill up this part of northern Illinois beginning in the 1820’s.

Some of the best farm acreage on planet earth - thousands of hectares - has been plowed over to make room for gleaming office buildings and cookie cutter strip malls. The rich, black loam that at one time nurtured the growth of food crops that fed middle America now supports the suburbanite’s lawn and rose garden - a trade off for progress that some might find disturbing but which actually defines America in more ways than one.

Much of this growth has taken place in the last decade and a half as the cost of housing skyrocketed in suburbs closer to Chicago. But 30 years ago, this sliver of the Fox River Valley was still mostly farmland with little towns like Algonquin (population at that time around 7,000) dotting the landscape. And along the old country roads that criss cross Algonquin Township, one could occasionally find an old cemetery with perhaps only 2 or 3 dozen graves - probably at one time attached to a now abandoned church.

It amused some of us high school kids to take our dates out onto these dark, lonely roads and wind up pulling in to one of these old cemeteries. We of the more settled suburbs closer to Chicago thought it might literally scare the pants off our female companions. Of course, it never did but we shouldn’t be faulted for our original thinking.

Remembering these cemeteries when I moved out to the area more than a decade ago, I decided to try and find some of those country grave yards we visited in my high school days. It was the insouciance of youth and an unpracticed eye that we didn’t realize what a goldmine of history we were ignoring at the time. We saw the dates on those old headstones - some going back to the 1840’s - and didn’t grasp the significance. Such callow youths we were, indeed.

I discovered in my quest to find the old grave yards that most of them had disappeared, buried under suburban sprawl as the once lonely country roads were now major thoroughfares with subdivisions, shopping centers, stop lights and something that wasn’t around 30 years ago - the police. It made me grateful that in the stupidity of my youth when it was considered macho to drive drunk that the police had better things to do than patrol those dark, forbidding township roads.

After spending most of a lazy summer afternoon trying to find them, I finally happened on exactly what I was looking for. The nameless cemetery was sitting at a crossroads, nestled into a grove of poplar trees. I never found out for sure but the 2 dozen graves must have been maintained by the property owner. It wasn’t exactly overgrown but it wasn’t manicured and clipped as you would find in most private cemeteries. Some of the markers were askew and the graves had been placed haphazardly giving a decidedly casual feeling to the scene.

The markers were weatherbeaten to the point that many of the names were erased by the wind and rain. As historian Bruce Catton pointed out after viewing similar graves as a boy in his own rural neighborhood in Michigan, there is nothing lonelier than a grave with no name. It’s as if the soul itself has been stripped of dignity and humanity, leaving only the rotting, decaying flesh and bones of a corpse with no memory of friends or family to succor the spirit or assuage the grief of separation.

It was the color of the flower arrangement that first caught my eye. A beautiful collection of wildflowers - perhaps picked from a nearby field or family garden - which gave off a cheery glow in an otherwise mournful setting. As I approached the grave, I noted immediately that the name had been completely erased by time and erosion. The only visible writing was the year of birth and death - 1819 -1852 - as well as the phrase “A proud soldier.”

Some nameless Samaritan had placed a beautiful flower arrangement in a forgotten graveyard on a veteran’s grave with no name. Suddenly, I saw the lonely cemetery in an entirely different light. There was an immediate connection made to our past, like rubbing a talisman and seeing history spread out before me.

At the time of his death, this unknown soldier’s father would have been old enough to serve in the War of 1812 while his grandfather could have easily fought in the Revolution. And his sons would probably have been old enough to serve in the Civil War while his grandsons may have participated in the Spanish-American War.

And to make our historical connection complete, the last veteran of that war died in 1992 - a man who could have shaken hands with soldiers serving in Iraq or Afghanistan today.

The respect shown this unknown soldier in an old country grave yard reminds us all that the millions of veterans who have served the United States proudly need to be recognized and applauded for engaging themselves in a cause and effort greater than themselves. The defense of our freedoms - too often taken for granted or forgotten - is worthy of this recognition because they did a job that needed to be done, performing selflessly and when called upon, making the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of liberty.

I’ve often asked, does this make veterans better men than me? I think it makes them more complete men, filling themselves up with something besides the usual trivialities of life that tend to dominate our existence. In this, they go to their graves secure in the knowledge that they have lived a life of a different cut than the rest of us. Richer for their military experience - perhaps in ways that they themselves don’t quite understand - I don’t exactly envy them their service but I respect it enormously.

That old grave yard is gone now, something I discovered a few years ago when I pulled up to the same intersection. A traffic light replaced the four way stop signs and an expensive, gated house now occupies the land. But the memory of that nameless soldier’s marker with the beautiful flower tribute returns every once and a while. It makes me appreciate what I have a little more. And especially on days like today when we honor the memory of our veterans, it connects me to our past in that goose-bumpy sort of way, filling the heart with gratitude that I live in a country that birthed such men as that unknown soldier haunting my thoughts on this Veterans Day.


  1. Rick

    As a veteran of wars we have fought in foreign lands I will tell you that you only got a bit of a grasp of what it is to be a veteran who has been there done that.

    One thing that will stick with you always is the appreciation for what is right and good in our form of government we have had the grace of God to be born under.

    Most of us knew it before we volunteered for defending her even back when there was a draft. But even we did not grasp beforehand how much more we would come to understand that need over the time of our service.

    Look around at most veterans of any war you want to see and you will see a person who’s sense of priorities has changed, who is not distracted by the small and the trivial.

    Some would suggest it is almost as transforming as a near death experience or a similar close call. But unlike that near death instance that is forgotten over time, this one lives on in us until the day we die.

    So today we thank our veterans and for some our brothers and sisters in arms. Also we hope for the protection of and the success of those now and in the future in the field of battle no matter where it is to be fought.

    Comment by SlimGuy — 11/11/2007 @ 9:12 am

  2. Celebrating America and what makes her so great…

    Senator Zell Miller, who I quoted Friday, said it best at the 2004 Republican National Convention:
    “Never in the history of the world has any soldier sacrificed more for the freedom and liberty of total strangers than the American soldier. And, o…

    Trackback by Sister Toldjah — 11/11/2007 @ 11:47 am

  3. “At the time of his death, this unknown soldier’s father would have been old enough to serve in the War of 1812 while his grandfather could have easily fought in the Revolution. And his sons would probably have been old enough to serve in the Civil War while his grandsons may have participated in the Spanish-American War.”

    Kinda sad to think that there was nothing to look forward to for future generations but war. :(

    Comment by Melanie — 11/11/2007 @ 1:15 pm

  4. Kinda sad to think that there was nothing to look forward to for future generations but war.


    That may be the most idiotic statement ever left on this site.

    Are you saying that the soldier’s family were soothsayers? That they could divine the future?

    I guess so since they had nothing “to look forward to” except war. Do you believe that the grandfather who may have fought in the revolution could see the day when his great, great grandson fought in the Spanish American war?

    You’re trying to make a very dumb point about America and war by attempting to show the frequency of conflict reflecting badly on our history.

    Try again…

    Comment by Rick Moran — 11/11/2007 @ 1:27 pm

  5. “Kinda sad to think that there was nothing to look forward to for future generations but war. :(”


    As a veteran, and one whose relatives have fought for this Country since World War I, after immigrating from Europe at the turn of the previous century, I must admit that that is the most ignorant statement I have come across in years.

    As Rick pointedly wrote, one cannot ascertain what the future holds…having served from 1980 until 1990, I could not have predicted the conflict in Lebanon, Panama, Grenada, or the beginning of the Persian Gulf War for that matter.

    Regrettably, you are looking at this through the knowledge of hindsight, which is a very dangerous thing to do. By doing so, you do not honor those who have served in the past, and also through a perceived foresight on your part, you denigrate those who may serve in the future.

    Both perceptions are abhorrent.

    Comment by Gothguy — 11/11/2007 @ 7:49 pm

  6. Melanie

    The first war you chose not to fight will likely be your last one.

    Comment by SlimGuy — 11/11/2007 @ 7:54 pm

  7. A fine post, Rick. Pay no heed to the ahistorical left. They ignore the past when they’re aware of it at all. The utopian future is what they live for when all lives will be ordered by a benevolent state.

    Comment by Banjo — 11/12/2007 @ 8:07 am

  8. #3

    Another one of those “blame America first” types, trapped in the discernment gap, apparently accepting without question the faux progressive meme which holds that anyone who dares to disagree with the anti-war left somehow must “love war.”

    Comment by Chip — 11/12/2007 @ 9:01 am

  9. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 11/12/2007 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention updated throughout the day…so check back often.

    Comment by David M — 11/12/2007 @ 10:16 am

  10. So Melanie. Lets go through a little history here.The revolution was fought to free us from England and become a nation and not a colony whose purpose is to enrich a Monarchy.The war of 1812 was to again to kick out that same country/Monarchy who decided to try and subjigate a nation.The civil war was to keep this nation whole and strong so we wouldn’t be invaded again also the by product was freeing slaves thus providing again Freedom. The Spanish/American war again this time was fought to free Cuba and the Phillipines from another European Monarchy hell bent on enslaving other countries,and its people for it’s own persoal wealth and lavish lifestyle.Mabey now you could continue on your’e own to read up on the rest of the wars and see truly what this country is willing stands up against in the world.

    Comment by R.fischer — 11/14/2007 @ 3:42 am

  11. I’m confused guys. Do you all believe war is necessary to protect the USA from other countries? Or is war a form of national expression?

    I ask because any reference to history, be it this or the last century or the one before that and so on, is and was always about the prevailing super power invading otherwise unstable local disputes or even peaceful places for control of profit or gain for the invading super power.

    Any glance at military history reveals who was the super power of that period.I mean hey you guys now have bases in Cuba as did the Spanish before you(but the Cubans don’t want either of you there) and Japan as did the British and Chinese before them (strange and ungrateful lot they have become towards the US) and the Philippines as did the Spanish before you and Iraq (the British had their turn(enough said as to what the ‘locals’ believe is in their interests).

    The US even has a whole lot of spy bases in friendly countries like Australia, Turkey and Italy.

    Places where if you ask the ordinary citizen of these countries if they feel safer or even want the USA military to be there, most would say resolutely: No!

    The history of the USA in this and certainly the last century is that of the aggressor and the invader.

    So I guess I’m with Melanie on how war is a perpetual expression of (useless) human activity (if you remove the nationalistic bias) that impacts upon families through time.

    War is perpetuated by the nation who has the most military might at any given time in history. A national process that predestines the poor (either in education or money) to die for the super rich and the power welding elites of any nation.

    It is an imperfect world made less imperfect by calls to false notions of righteousness and honor. As the dead, wounded and maned in body and mind attest, war by any nation is a messy, painful and very unintelligent form of foreign policy. So be sentimental towards the dead soldiers conned by the inequalities of their respective nations. But please keep the factual context in its proper place.

    Oh and for the record, I am not anti-war per se. But I am most definitely pro-life and mindful of super power ruthlessness in the pursuit of some higher order of ‘at all costs’ imperative!

    Comment by Jon — 12/16/2007 @ 11:40 pm

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