After World War I, Congress established November 11 as Armistice Day, to honor the brave Americans who fought and died in service to this great country. In 1958, President Dwight Eisenhower signed a proclamation that renamed this day as Veterans Day, and it has become the National Holiday we now observe every November 11th to remember all those who have served, in all branches of our military. (Memorial Day now honors those who gave it all).
I did a little research on the Internet to see just how many men and women this encompassed. It was sobering, to say the least. This is what I discovered:
American War Deaths since WW-I
World War 1 – 116,708
World War 2 – 407,316
Korean War – 36,914
Vietnam War – 58,169
El Salvador – 20
Beirut – 266
Persian Gulf Support – 39
Invasion of Grenada – 19
Invasion of Panama – 40
Persian Gulf War – 269
Somalia – 43
Afghanistan – 1,244 (through 8/25/10)
Iraq – 4,417 (through 8/25/10)
TOTAL – 636,476
It should be noted that these numbers are for deaths only, and do not include wounded or MIA (missing in action). Typically, casualty figures usually include wounded and KIA, but this list specifically stated that it did not include wounded. A good estimate of those wounded in these conflicts would be about 3 times the number of killed (1,500,000), although medical battlefield technology has improved so dramatically in the past 50 years that those wounded survivors are now MUCH higher than those killed.
I guess that is a good thing, although many of the survivors today are terribly damaged, and left to face and endure horrible injuries and suffering.
That 636, 476 doesn’t even include the figures for the American Civil War, where another 626,000 Americans lost their lives. If you include that conflict, that brings the death count to almost 1.25 million, and the wounded to nearly 4 million
Do we ever stop to think about this, I mean really think about this terrible cost of young American lives? About the sacrifices they made, and the sacrifices of their families, their parents and siblings, wives, children? (I won’t go into the politics of this here, but take a look at my blog post about General McChrystal, and you’ll see what I think about that).
I do. I think about it a lot, and although it makes me sad, it also makes me very proud to be an American, and to have been represented by these great heroes. Every single one, a hero, in my way of thinking. Not just the ones decorated with the Silver Stars, and the Medals of Honor. But the ones we don’t even know their names. The ones whose remains have been returned by another country, after 20, or 50 years. The ones who were cooks, or mechanics, or other mundane billets, who just happened to be in the wrong place when a stray mortar round came calling, or an artillery shell landed, fired from miles away, or a bomb dropped from an enemy airplane arrived close by.
These men (and women) gave us their blood, their memories, their lives, and many of us have never even paused to say a simple “thank you” in remembrance of their gifts. Of course, we can never thank them directly, but we can do something to honor them, and perhaps make a difference in the lives of those who still serve.Take 15 seconds from your life, when you see a man or woman in uniform, to stop them and say “Thank you for your service”, and to offer a handshake. Take the time at a baseball game, or football game, to stand up proudly, and sing our National Anthem. And if you don’t know the words, take the time to learn them! At least hum along.
And take a moment to explore some of the fine organizations like “Soldier’s Angels”, or the “Wounded Warrior Project”, and send them a small donation if you can. Even $5 or $10 will make you feel really good! And the USO is still out there, doing great work for these kids. And they ARE kids, mostly. I looked at the detailed stats on the Vietnam War casualties in the list above, and discovered that nearly 25,000 of the 58,000 deaths were kids 20 years old, or younger. The same is true for the kids in Iraq, and Afghanistan. They should be in college, or at least back here working to enjoy the American Dream, but instead they have volunteered to do what they do, so that WE can enjoy OUR American Dream.
That’s something that needs to be honored, in every way we can. If you don’t do anything else this Veterans Day, try to find one person currently serving in our military, and tell them, “THANK YOU, I appreciate all that you are doing”! Or send someone a care package for Thanksgiving or Christmas. There are Veterans organizations, like the American Legion, or VFW, or others, than can give you names and addresses of kids out there. Even just a Christmas card, would mean a lot to these fine Americans. Or google for an address to send a letter to a young man or woman at Walter Reed Medical Center. They could probably use a friend right now, and a little support. Someone to tell them they are in our prayers. They’ve certainly earned it!