Every year I wonder how many Americans pause on Memorial Day to reflect on the sacrifice made by the men and women who have been killed fighting the nation’s wars. Because society no longer bears a collective responsibility securing our freedoms, it is only military families that truly share and understand the anguish, pain, and pride of losing someone under combat related circumstances.
The cost in human lives has been and is staggering. The following numbers reflect combat related deaths in America’s principal wars and combat operations since World War I. They do not address the number of wounded, missing in action, or the psychological toll of veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
WWI – 53,402 WWII – 291,557 Korea – 33,739 Vietnam – 47,434 Iraq (Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, New Dawn, Inherent Resolve, and Freedom’s Sentinel) – 6,855 Afghanistan (2001-2017) – 942.
Think about those numbers for a moment and let them sink in. Then think about countless other wars from the American Revolution to the present that are not listed. Then think of the ongoing war against terrorism. Freedom is not free!
Today we have men and women stationed in hot spots around the globe protecting America’s interests. The reality is that many of these individuals will also give their “last full measure of devotion” to preserve our democracy.
If you really want these numbers to sink in, visit one of the 147 national cemeteries or 24 permanent American burial grounds on foreign soil. Gaze upon the row upon row upon row of headstones. It is both overwhelming and inspiring. Finally, get on your knees and give thanks for such courage, commitment, and love of country. You may have not known a single one of them, but you owe them a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.
God Bless the deceased and God Bless America!