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Friday, May 22, 2015

Memorial Day Poster Girls

Deborah Samson is the Official State Heroine of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. She was awarded this honor On May 23, 1983, because of her heroic role in the final months of the American Revolutionary War.

At a young age, Deborah was sent away from her family because her impoverished mother was unable to provide for the large family. An independent spirit certainly was born of necessity, and Deborah asserted herself early by gaining an education despite the lack of formal schooling, and later, in a burst of patriotism, disguising herself as a young man in order to enlist in the Second Massachusetts Regiment.

Now known as Robert Shurtliff, Deborah faced some wild skirmishes and merciless hand to hand struggles in the final gasps of the fight with Britain. She was able to preserve her disguise by treating one leg wound, but a more serious wound, incurred later on, and one that almost cost her life, required medical attention that revealed her sex.

After an Honorable Discharge, Deborah, like so many veterans, attempted to return to normal life, but was unable to fit in. She once again donned male garb, and traveled to the house of her aunt, this time as Cousin Ephraim.

Deborah Samson Gannett
The disguise was finally deemed unnecessary when she met and fell in love with farmer Benjamin Gannett. Even as a wife and mother, Deborah lived a life of unusual courage and determination. She traveled all around the now United States, lecturing on her role in the war.

One wonders if Deborah Samson suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, like so many of her brave modern colleagues who are the veterans of all too many wars.

Poster Girl is a documentary film telling the story of Robynn Murray. Robynn, like Deborah, wanted to make a difference by enlisting and going off to fight in a war; this time the war was in Iraq. First time director, Sara Nesson, creates a film that follows Robynn through her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following her deployment home. The film, nominated for an academy Award for best short documentary, is a touchingly honest portrayal of an amazing young woman. Like Deborah, Robynn’s journeys chronicle war, brutality, and pain both physical, but even more heart rending, emotional. Both women come out on the other side. Both women find someone to love and understand, and both women represent the price paid in the call to duty, and the debt we all owe for the sacrifice they made and are making.

Perhaps in another time Deborah Samson would have shown the honesty that Robynn Murray demonstrates in Poster Girl. Who knows, though, perhaps Deborah’s American Heroine lecture series did exactly that.

 Robynn Murray and Deborah Samson, two American heroines, who made a difference, of whom we are proud, and who should take great pride in all their accomplishments.

That's what Memorial Day weekend is all about.
 Let's remember!