"It's a source of pride for us to be able to do this and it also instills a sense of duty, that we've had people who were so far back in our lineage that served," she said. "And it really encourages you to have a life of service."
Dr. Cunningham can trace her family tree back to Pvt. Israel Harding of the 4th Connecticut Regiment. Others in attendance also have ancestors who fought in the American Revolution nearly 250 years ago. They have formed the Society of the Descendants of Washington's Army at Valley Forge.
For the third year, the society has gathered at the National Memorial Arch to participate in the annual Wreaths Across America day, which pays tribute to fallen heroes who fought for the country.
"If you just read about Valley Forge, and just try and place yourself in those times, they endured hardships we can't even imagine," said Maj. Gen. Rod Faulk, who serves as the Commanding General of the 99th Readiness Division of the United States Army Reserve.
Maj. Gen. Faulk and a few others from his division aided in placing wreaths around the perimeter of the monument today. With 500 wreaths total, it represented only a fraction of the 2,000 estimated deaths that occured within the six-month encampment.
"It always chokes me up a little bit because when you think about it, greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends," he said, citing a famous quote.
Several other organizations participated, such as local Cub Scouts and the Valley Forge Park Alliance. Members from area chapters of both the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution were also in attendance.
"We always want them to come away with a little bit better understanding of history," said Dr. Cunningham. "And not only an understanding, but a little bit more respect."
Valley Forge National Historical Park will continue programming this weekend to commemorate the arrival of the Continental Army. March-ins, log hut building competitions, and tours will be discoverable to visitors.
To learn more about the Society of the Descendants of Washington's Army at Valley Forge or Wreaths Across America, visit their websites.
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