FRISCO — Far from being just a day for cookouts and picnics, Memorial Day is somber remembrance of those who paid the ultimate price throughout the course of our country’s history. And the toll is high — as many as 848,000 combat deaths and up to 1.3 million counting other war related causes.
The U.S. Civil War remains the country’s costliest in terms of lives lost, claiming 625,000 casualties, with men dying at the rate of 599 per day. The U.S. suffered about 405,000 casualties in bloody World War II, with about 416 deaths per day, followed by World War I (116,000 deaths), The Vietnam War (58,000 deaths), The Korean War (36,000 deaths) and the Revolutionary War (25,000 deaths).
The U.S. Naval Department maintains an online library with detailed information about U.S. military casualties throughout the country’s history.
Along with the incalculable loss ans suffering of the families of those casualties, there’s also a huge economic cost associated with that loss of life. By some estimates, the deaths in the Iran and Afghanistan campaigns cost the U.S. economy about $44.6 billion, according to a Harvard study. And since the government decided to finance those military actions almost exclusively with borrowed money, the total cost may reach an estimated $4 to $6 trillion.
Here’s the Memorial Day message from the Veterans of Foreign Wars:
“Many Americans have forgotten the true meaning of a holiday that we as veterans hold so close to our hearts. For too many, Memorial Day now signifies nothing more than the start of summer and is celebrated with holiday sales. Trips to the lake and shopping extravaganzas have replaced memorial visits, remembrance ceremonies or simply put, a day to reflect upon all of the luxuries—like freedom—that we as Americans enjoy daily.
As proud veterans, we know the true meaning of Memorial Day.
On Memorial Day, we honor our fallen comrades of the United States military in the form of remembrance. And with that, comes a deep sense of appreciation for both their selflessness in protecting the land of the free, and for their sacrifice in ensuring it stays that way.
Each and every American owes a great debt to the courageous men and women who have given their lives to protect our way of life. While giving back to the extent they deserve is impossible, today, we merely attempt our repayment in the form of remembrance. We dedicate this day to them.
As we go about our activities, we should take the opportunity to not only remember the sacrifices of our fallen and mourn their departure, we should celebrate the spirit with which they served and reflect upon their contributions in making America, truly, the land of the free.
The VFW thanks all service members, veterans and their families for their contributions and service to the United States of America.”
President Barack Obama acknowledged Memorial Day in his weekly address to the nation:
“Hi, everybody. This week, I’ve been speaking about America’s national security – our past, our present, and our future.
On Thursday, I outlined the future of our fight against terrorism – the threats we face, and the way in which we will meet them.
On Friday, I went to Annapolis to celebrate the extraordinary young men and women of the United States Naval Academy’s Class of 2013 – the sailors and Marines who will not only lead that fight, but who will lead our country for decades to come.
And on Monday, we celebrate Memorial Day. Unofficially, it’s the start of summer – a chance for us to spend some time with family and friends, at barbecues or the beach, getting a little fun and relaxation in before heading back to work.
It’s also a day on which we set aside some time, on our own or with our families, to honor and remember all the men and women who have given their lives in service to this country we love.
They are heroes, each and every one. They gave America the most precious thing they had – “the last full measure of devotion.” And because they did, we are who we are today – a free and prosperous nation, the greatest in the world.
At a time when only about one percent of the American people bear the burden of our defense, the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform isn’t always readily apparent. That’s partly because our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and coast guardsmen are so skilled at what they do. It’s also because those who serve tend to do so quietly. They don’t seek the limelight. They don’t serve for our admiration, or even our gratitude. They risk their lives, and many give their lives, for something larger than themselves or any of us: the ideals of liberty and justice that make America a beacon of hope for the world.
That’s been true throughout our history – from our earliest days, when a tiny band of revolutionaries stood up to an Empire, to our 9/11 Generation, which continues to serve and sacrifice today.
Every time a threat has risen, Americans have risen to meet it. And because of that courage – that willingness to fight, and even die – America endures.
That is the purpose of Memorial Day. To remember with gratitude the countless men and women who gave their lives so we could know peace and live in freedom.
And we must do more than remember.
We must care for the loved ones that our fallen service members have left behind.
We must make sure all our veterans have the care and benefits they’ve earned, and the jobs and opportunity they deserve.
We must be there for the military families whose loved ones are in harm’s way – for they serve as well.
And above all, we must make sure that the men and women of our armed forces have the support they need to achieve their missions safely at home and abroad.
The young men and women I met at the Naval Academy this week know the meaning of service. They’ve studied the heroes of our history. They’ve chosen to follow in their footsteps – to stand their watch, man a ship, lead a platoon. They are doing their part. And each of us must do ours.
So this weekend, as we commemorate Memorial Day, I ask you to hold all our fallen heroes in your hearts.
And every day, let us work together to preserve what their sacrifices achieved – to make our country even stronger, even more fair, even more free. That is our mission. It is our obligation. And it is our privilege, as the heirs of those who came before us, and as citizens of the United States of America.