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Honoring sacrifice

John P. Mann of Warrenton is a World War II veteran. Mann delights the crowd with his story of how he met his now late wife and dedicates the planting of his tree to her. Times-Mirror/Doug Stroud
In the week America pauses to celebrate its independence, Loudouners came to an historic former plantation outside of Leesburg on Sunday to reflect on the sacrifices of those who died on hallowed ground here.

Students from Loudoun County high schools told stories of the fallen. A World War II veteran from Warrenton dedicated a tree in the name of his wife of 62 years. And the Marine Corps’ Drum & Bugle Corps played “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in inspiring tribute to those who died in conflict and reunification in the American Civil War, remembered anew on its 150th anniversary.

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground, the four-state partnership based in Waterford dedicated to America’s defining heritage between Gettysburg, Pa. and Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, dedicated 500 trees along Route 15, a National Scenic Byway, at Oatlands Hamlet and Little Oatlands, about 5 miles west of Leesburg. Part of JTHG’s Living Legacy Project, each tree commemorates a Civil War soldier killed in the conflict, including many in skirmishes or battles in Loudoun County. The trees are geotagged with the name of the soldier, and to the extent the information is available, where the soldier was born, where he died and if he left letters or diaries.

Think of it as an 180-mile long, 75-mile wide memorial running through the heart and soul of Loudoun County. Inside an elegant tent pitched next to a flowering magnolia on the Oatlands hilltop, about 200 people watched the names of soldiers and victims scroll across two, large video monitors, recalling the Vietnam Memorial in Washington with its haunting list of names engraved in stone. But the scope of that memorial with its 45,000 names pales in comparison to the Living Legacy Project: if a tree is planted every 10 feet for each of the 620,000 soldiers who died in the Civil War, there would not be room in the Hallowed Ground corridor – up and back between Gettsyburg and Monticello – for every tree.

The daunting ambition does not deter Cate MacGinnis Wyatt, president of the JTHG Partnership. “We aim to march these trees from Mr. Jefferson’s highway straight to Gettysburg,” she proclaimed. Wyatt, former Commonwealth Secretary of Commerce and Trade, drew on inspiring supporters: students who researched Civil War soldiers who died in Leesburg, and a World War II veteran.

Among those who researched and presented “stories of the fallen” were Jimmy Cunningham, 14, a freshman at Leesburg’s Tuscarora High School; Rachel Petterson, 15, of Lovettsville, a sophomore at Woodgrove High School and 18-year-old Nathan Goodwin, a recent graduate of Heritage High School.
But it was left to World War II veteran to provide the ceremonies with its most tender moment. John P. Mann III of Warrenton recounted how he pursued his wife of 62 years and now, so inspired by The Journey Through Hallowed Ground, that he drove to the ceremonies to donate $100 for a tree in her name to be planted honoring a Civil War soldier.

With one arm waving toward heaven, Mann’s voice carried above all others as the ceremonies ended with the singing of “Amazing Grace.”


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