Today is Memorial Day. It is a day we take time to remember all of those who died in the service of their country. There is a lot of confusion between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. On Veteran’s Day we honor all those who served in the military. Today we remember only the fallen.
Our country has been involved in several conflicts since our founding in 1776. Beginning with the Revolutionary War right up to now and the latest Iraq War. During this time, we have seen nearly 2 million military personal lose their lives in defense of this country.
Most of the conflicts you probably never heard about. They were “little” wars fought all over the world. Yet, military personnel lost their lives mostly far away from home. Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day”. There are arguments about where it actually started but the fact is that both the North and the South decorated graves of fallen Civil War veterans. Some of this occurred as early at 1861 in the South. In the North, it began in 1868.
The intention of Decoration Day was to decorate the graves of our fallen heroes. This was to both honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice as well as to remember their sacrifices in defense of liberty.
Over the years the two different holidays began to merge. Memorial Day did not become a national holiday until 1967. So, the actual national holiday to remember our fallen heroes is only about 50 years old. That does not limit its significance.
Beginning with World War I, we have lost several hundred thousand men and women to combat. The official count is:
- World War I: 116,516
- World War II: 405,399
- Korean War: 54,246
- Vietnam War 58,209
- Gulf War: 294
- Afghanistan War: 2,229
- Iraq War: 4,488
There were a host of other “wars” that I did not include in these numbers. The Kosovo war, the Lebanon Incident, the invasion of Panama, the Granada Invasion, etc. The point is that this country has been at war virtually forever.
I entered the service during the Vietnam War. I lost many friends to that war. I also lost friends in many of the other conflicts and during search and rescue missions. The loss of our friends in these actions hurt us very much. When you lose a friend in the service of our country, you lose a little part of yourself.
Unfortunately, it is something that is very hard to explain. It is one of those things that you may understand, but never feel unless you experience it. I served for 20 years. I am proud to have served with so many dedicated men and women. I still remember those friends I lost. It makes me appreciate those who are still with us even more.
Today we remember those who have died in the service of our country. When you think about heroes, these are the real heroes. Almost every one of them were normal men and women who were scared. They were thrust into a situation they would rather not be in. Yet, they did their duty without hesitation.
Our forces are made up from the finest men and women our country has to offer. They are dedicated to doing their job. They are a rare breed of people who are willing to put it all on the line for the rest of us. When they faced the real possibility of death, they went forward. Many gave the ultimate sacrifice.
So, today, we should remember those who have fallen because they gave the most. Their lives were not lost in vain. They believed in what they were doing, and they were proud to serve our country.
Memorial Day has also become know as the “unofficial start of summer”. Most people gather with family and friends for picnics and BBQs. They play sports and basically have a fun day off. That is all well and good.
Today, I will remember my friends who lost their lives serving. I will remember their faces and their laughs. I will remember the camaraderie we shared and the fun we had together. I will remember their sacrifices. I will most likely shed a few tears while I remember them.
That is the least I can do. Today, please forget your politics and take just a few moments to remember them too. I believe they really don’t want anything more.