Memorial Day

Memorial Day, an American Holiday set aside to do what the name suggests. It is the day we are supposed to remember the fallen heroes from wars past and present. The history of America is its wars. The country was founded within a war. Statistics are mind-boggling.

  • 1775-1783 – The American Revolutionary War – 50,000 dead and wounded
  • 1785-1796 – The Northwest Indian War – 1,881+ dead and wounded
  • 1798-1800 – The Quasi War – 556 dead and wounded
  • 1812-1815 – The War of 1812 – 20,000 dead and wounded
  • 1846-1848 – The Mexican-American War – 17,435 dead and wounded
  • 1861-1865 – The Civil War – 750,000 dead
  •         -1898 – The Spanish-American War – 4,068 dead and wounded
  • 1898-1913 – The Philippine-American War – 7,126 dead and wounded
  • 1917-1918 – World War 1 – 320,518 dead and wounded – 3,350 missing
  • 1941-1945 – World War 2 – 1,076,245 dead and wounded – 30,314 missing
  • 1950-1953 – The Korean War – 128,650 dead and wounded – 4,759 missing
  • 1955-1975 – The Viet Nam War – 211,454 dead and wounded – 2,489 missing
  • 2001-Present – The Afghanistan War – 20,904 dead and wounded
  • 2003-2011 – The Iraq War – 36,710 dead and wounded

You look at that list and see a good number of years with no conflict, but this list is by no means complete. There is hardly any time when the U.S. is not engaged in some type of occupation. That’s a total of 2,645,547+ dead and wounded from this very short list. What a waste of life. It makes Memorial Day seem small, as if one day couldn’t possibly do it.

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Viet Nam was my war. It was the first war that was broadcast into American homes on a nightly basis. It gave us haunting images like the one above, pictures that will be burned into our minds forever. A friend of mine, Chipper went long before me and was lucky to come back. A lot of our friends didn’t. He lost his left leg at the knee and his right leg at mid-thigh. His life could have gone into the bitter world like Captain Dan of Forest Gump fame.

But Chipper was a fighter. He was the kind of guy that took set-backs and diversity and looked them right in the eye. He didn’t back down from anybody or anything. So how did America pay back this man that sacrificed his legs for her? He was rewarded by a lifetime of bureaucratic red tape from the V.A. on every single thing he tried to do. And why the tape?

Chipper was instructed to wear his prosthetics. They were uncomfortable and hurt. He was not ashamed of his wheelchair, never caring what people thought when they saw him in it. He was told that “Americans didn’t want to see returning soldiers missing limbs”. What? They watched the ravages of war on television, saw executions, burned children and an endless supply of caskets being loaded onto C-133 Cargomaster planes. They saw all of this, and yet they didn’t want to see one of their sons in a wheelchair? What did they think was happening there?

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When Viet Nam was done, they labeled the returnees as sick, demented and dangerous drug addicts. Protesters blamed them for taking part in a war as if they had a choice. The Viet Nam era veterans were cast aside by the country and made invisible. Such is the cost of losing a war. Thankfully, today’s troops have it slightly better. They still get screwed by the V.A., but not as bad as back then. Today we understand what war does to people, things like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders. It strikes me as odd that it only took 240 years for it.

But today is Memorial Day. Sit back, pop a beer and light the bar-b-que. Just take a minute to remember the many that have died in wars for this country. Don’t take the time to wonder if the wars were just or warranted, because a great many of them were not. Remember instead, the ordinary man called on to do extraordinary things. The soldier that just takes orders because he was trained to do that. The soldiers that faced death and kept going. The soldiers that paid the ultimate price for this country. Raise a glass to them and if there’s a vet at your party, thank him for what he did.

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