We pause today to remember those who have died in service of the our nation – to protect the freedoms we hold so dear, freedoms we all-to-often take for granted even as men and women to this day fight and die in foreign lands.
Memorial Day came into being to honor those who died during our country’s bloodiest conflict, the Civil War.
It was widely accepted for more than a century that the Civil War cost more than 620,000 American lives – roughly 2 percent of the nation’s total population. Research based on a detailed analysis of 19th century census data and published a couple of years ago by J. David Hacker, a demographic historian from Binghamton University in New York, pushed the number of dead to an estimated 750,000.
World War II cost the lives of more than 400,000 U.S. service members, along with another 11,300 from the merchant marines. More than 670,000 U.S. services members were wounded.
We’ve written about the fact that our nation’s two most-recent wars – in Iraq and Afghanistan – were and are fought by volunteers, as opposed to our most-deadly conflicts, the Civil War and World War II, both of which touched nearly all Americans at the time.
We’ve written about how little it takes for regular folks in regular communities across the country to observe Memorial Day. We can, for example, lay flowers on the grave of someone who served in the military – whether we know the veteran or not. We can pause at 3 p.m. for a minute of silence and reflection in observance of the National Moment of Remembrance.
We’ve written here about the hope that we may soon celebrate a Memorial Day when we as a nation are not at war. We’re not quite there yet.
Statistics from the Department of Defense tell the more-recent tale of loss.
The vast majority were killed in action. Another 52,010 U.S. service members were wounded during these operations.
So as you fire up the barbecue, head to the lake or out to the movies, take some time to remember those who fought and died to protect us all.