The issue: Attend Monday’s ceremony, or lay flowers on a grave
We pause this weekend to remember those who have died in service to our nation — to protect the freedoms we hold so dear, the freedoms we all too often take for granted even as American troops are fighting and dying in foreign lands.
MEMORIAL DAY was set aside 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. And more than 670,000 American military personnel were wounded.
Vietnam added another 58,000 casualties to the grim list of war dead.
Statistics from the Department of Defense tell the more recent tale of loss.
* The United States suffered 4,410 military casualties and 13 Defense Department civilian casualties during Operation Iraqi Freedom, from March 19, 2003, to Aug. 31, 2010.
* Our nation saw another 66 military casualties during Operation New Dawn, from Sept. 1, 2010, to Dec. 31, 2011.
* Operation Enduring Freedom saw 2,184 military casualties, as of Thursday, in Afghanistan and another 133 in other locations, plus three Defense Department civilian casualties.
The vast majority were killed in action. Another 52,010 U.S. service members were wounded during these operations.
IT TAKES SO LITTLE for us to observe Memorial Day and pay tribute to those who fought and died for our freedoms. In Davis, we can attend Monday’s ceremony at 10 a.m. at the Davis Cemetery. We can 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.
Our hope is that one day soon we may celebrate a Memorial Day when we as a nation are not at war.
We’re not there quite yet.