By Elizabeth Eisenstadt-Evans
Ever-bustling Route 23 goes past the Freedoms Foundation and takes you right into Valley Forge National Historical Park. Intent on arriving at the monuments, trails and re-created Revolutionary War barracks, many tourists probably drive past the turnoff for an organization that promotes constitutional literacy and civic engagement in a way that appeals to a nation vastly more diverse, but just as contentious, as that of the 18th-century founders.
The first thing you notice as you walk past the red-brick dormitories and offices into the trees of the Medal of Honor Grove is the silence.
Divided by fundamental cultural and political disagreements, America is a cacophonous, often angry place right now.
In a time of civil strife, the mission of the Foundation may seem quaint, even anachronistic. But the citizenship and educational programs offered to students, teachers and others at the Freedoms Foundation are a robust rejoinder to shortcuts and cheap shots — and a reminder that the ideals that animated the founders still hold true.
The grove itself offers a mute testimony to bravery and heroism and an American faith that goodness has the last word, even in death.
More than 3,500 men (only one recipient thus far is a woman, Civil War surgeon Mary Walker) are commemorated with markers in the foundation’s 42-acre grove. Marked by 52 obelisks, a segment of the glade is allotted to each state, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.
It’s hard not to go through it (and you can; the grove is open every day from dawn to dusk) and not be moved by the testimonies to selflessness, bravery and sacrifice (most medals are given posthumously) that throng the silent air.
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