As a boy, Derek Crist roamed Antietam National Battlefield on the outskirts of town, its rolling hills and gentle streams a child’s dream playground.
In 2010, Army Sgt. Crist returned home from two tours in Afghanistan, where nearly 2,000 American servicemembers have died. His platoon lost two soldiers. He says he had not thought deeply about the history of his hometown until he saw fellow soldiers killed and wounded. The ground where, 150 years ago Monday, more than 23,000 were killed, wounded or went missing in the bloodiest day of combat in American history is indescribably more personal.
“The loss of one friend is pretty rough,” says Crist, 25, who is out of the Army and pursuing a business degree. “And then you realize you had all that going on right here.”