Four score and seven years after the United States declared its independence from Britain, the country was fighting against itself in the Civil War.
In his Gettysburg Address, delivered 87 years after July 4, 1776, Abraham Lincoln called for “a new birth of freedom” — a recommitment from all Americans to remember the sacrifices of those who died to protect our country’s founding principles.
Lincoln knew that memories fade. As time passes, people start to forget about the price of freedom.
“It is for us, the living, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work” of those who perished, Lincoln said.
Eagle Scout brothers Andrew and Christopher Adam are carrying that torch with pride. Through their monumental Eagle Scout service projects and enduring passion for patriotism, the brothers from Pennsylvania are reminding their fellow young people what Independence Day really means.
“The parties and fireworks should not take any precedence over remembering and educating our young people about the efforts and sacrifices it took from our country’s first leaders to take a chance on creating an entirely new way of life,” Andrew says. “It provides a timeless message that stands true to this day: If you want something bad enough, you will work as hard as you can and go as far as you have to in order to achieve it.”
A tribute to the peacemakers
Andrew Adam, 21, earned the Eagle Scout Award as a member of Troop 88 of Mechanicsburg, Pa., part of the aptly named New Birth of Freedom Council.
In 2015, for his Eagle Scout service project, Andrew created Unity Park in Gettysburg, Pa.
The monument itself, located near the site where as many as 51,000 Americans lost their lives, is meant to initiate a discussion about unity and peace through the eyes of some of the youngest Civil War participants: the musicians.
Andrew and Christopher had been taking part in Civil War reenactments for years and noticed there were no monuments or displays dedicated to these young Civil War heroes.
An Eagle project idea was born.
“My brother was the one who recommended I should do something to recognize the people we had been reenacting for several years,” Andrew says. “I took that idea and developed it.”
The stunning finished product is a tribute to the young people Andrew calls “the peacemakers.” These musicians “played a significant communication role in the armies’ way of operating,” Andrew says. “They were the public address, cellphones and social media of their time.”
While completing research for his project, Andrew discovered that many of these musicians were under the minimum age of 12 to enlist as a musician. Some were so eager to join the cause that they lied about their age.
Andrew learned of young people like Willie Johnston, who was just 11 when he joined the 3rd Vermont Infantry.
After the fierce Seven Days Battles in 1862 outside Richmond, Va., Willie was the only known drummer in the division to return with his instrument. Two years later, he received the Medal of Honor and is still the youngest recipient of the honor in history.
“It is stories like these that we must remember and pass on to future generations so that they can be inspired from sacrifices made by those who were as young as them,” Andrew says.
A poignant place and powerful message
Unity Park is just a block or two from the cemetery where Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. Its location is no coincidence.
“One only needs to look at that cemetery to be reminded of where we are headed if we cannot get along with one another and if we allow divisions to take hold in our country,” Andrew says. “Our country was so divided that thousands of men fought and killed each other.“
But Andrew has hope for the future.
“Yes, we have gone through tough times as a country and have not always been perfect, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from our history so that we do not repeat our shortcomings,” Andrew says. “We are strong and more powerful when we set aside our differences and choose to focus on our similarities. We are better united, not divided.”
With young people like Andrew and Christopher, the future looks bright indeed.
Andrew is a rising senior at Gettysburg College, a liberal arts school adjacent to the Gettysburg Battlefield. He’s working as a dental intern while attending school. After graduation, he plans to enter the dental field to eventually open his own practice.
The Monuments Men
The act of creating memorials to those who sacrificed everything for our country is something of a tradition in the Adam family.
Andrew’s younger brother, Christopher, also created a stirring monument. His exhibit to honor the heroes of D-Day won the 2021 Glenn A. and Melinda W. Adams Service Project of the Year Award. (Read our interview with Christopher here.)
Like his brother, Christopher’s project idea was fueled in part by his love of the country.
“Anything is achievable in America as long as you’re willing to work hard at it,” Christopher says. “That freedom has been given, protected and upheld by the sacrifices that millions of men and women have made for our freedoms.”
So how do we make sure that young people remember those sacrifices? No monument, no matter how powerful, can do it alone.
Christopher says young people should meet as many veterans as they can, helping them better understand the human faces behind our armed forces.
“Bringing young people together with veterans for a hands-on experience is a great way to help young people understand what they had to go through to protect our country and our way of life,” Christopher says.
And so on this Fourth of July, let’s follow Andrew’s and Christopher’s lead, remembering what was lost so that we could gain so much.
“The Fourth of July to me represents the start of the greatest country on planet Earth,” Christopher says. “Young men and women, in most cases no older than I, stood up against tyranny to secure freedoms for themselves and the people in their future.”
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