In Concord, MA, a British soldier, wounded in the fighting around the Old North Bridge, died near the town green, about a half-mile's march from the battle. His fellow redcoats gave him a summary burial there where he finally fell, thousands of miles from his home. History did not preserve his name, but it didn’t forget the location of the most significant event in this young man’s life. A gravestone still stands today. It all took place on Wednesday, April 19, 1775.
The stone begs the question how different our country and our lives could have been. Unlike our European cousins — say, France or Germany or Belgium or the Netherlands or Russia — our towns and villages are not littered with the dead of foreign troops who once trod here, musket or rifle in hand, and grave markers do not daily remind us of an alien presence on our native soil. Over the last century and a half, America has had the luxury of exporting its virtues and its soldiers overseas, and as such we have always been able to look outwards upon the world, not been forced to look sideways onto ourselves.
How different would we be were we daily confronted with the “what if?” in which others had come here to try to impose their will and their virtues on us? We would not necessarily be a better breed, but undoubtedly we would be a humbler one. That much is certain.