My great-grandmother on my mom’s side lost four brothers on the USS Arizona Dec. 7, 1941; a day that lives on in infamy. So many lives would be forever changed and no one could see how right at that moment.
According to WWII in HD, a program filmed in 2009 with plenty of research backing it up, said approximately 70 million people died during the war years with more than half of that number being civilians. Approximately 14 million U.S. soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen served during the U.S.’s involvement between 1941 and 1945. Of those, approximately 450,000 were killed in action or missing in action with many of them still missing. During the six years of the Nazi Holocaust, approximately 14 million people were murdered; of those about half of them were Jewish.
These are estimates. Actual numbers may be worse. It’s possible that many deaths went unaccounted for; sounds perfectly possible given the scale of the conflict and for how long it went on for. It’s also horrifying to think about. I was born in 1981, about 40 years after the start of WWII for the U.S. I watched that series, WWII in HD, and I couldn’t stop the tears. The hurt, the anger, the hate that it took to reach those numbers is nothing short of astounding. The sacrifices made by so many is also mind blowing.
That’s only WWII. What about WWI? What about Korea and Vietnam? The Vietnam Memorial, The Wall, has etched about 58,000 names, remembering those who gave their lives fighting for out country. All those numbers, the U.S. numbers, combined don’t add up to the loss of life that happened at the hands of brothers, fathers and sons in the U.S. Civil War.
I say numbers but what I mean is…people. Men and women who willing sacrificed for something much greater than themselves. They put their lives on the line for the rest of us. They died so that we may live.
While it’s important to remember and celebrate their lives, lets us not overlook those who served and were fortunate enough to come home. Let us not forget those who are still serving. They are indeed fortunate to come home but rarely do they come home unscathed. Maybe they have all their limbs and even all their fingers and toes, but they are still not always whole. Some scars cannot be seen.
How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart, you begin to understand, there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep…that have taken hold. – Frodo Baggins, Return of the King
On this Memorial Day, I want to thank every member of our military for their sacrifice. I am unwilling to subscribe to the saying, “All gave some, some gave all.” I know that may sound bad but it’s because I feel all gave all. Anyone willing to put on a uniform to serve this country is already sacrificing at a level most of us will never understand. Perhaps some are fortunate enough to come home but they didn’t give any less. They still have their battles to fight, demons to wrestle with. Some might not even have the hidden scars the way others do, but again, that doesn’t mean they gave less. As we’re finding out, they even must fight their own government to get the help they so deserve. It simply happens to be that “all” is defined a bit different per person.
I often hear that many veterans are humbled when someone thanks them for their service. They may shy from it. I also often hear that the most important thing for them is to not be forgotten. We forgot our Korean veterans. It’s often referred to as the Forgotten War. How shameful. The politics and the ugliness of war and the public seeing all of that much more than past conflicts contributed to our Vietnam vets being treated poorly or even simply being ignored. Unacceptable.
Memorial Day is not for politics. It’s not for differences in opinion of foreign policy. It’s simply about thanking our veterans and remembering them and their sacrifices. It’s about remembering how much their families and loved ones also sacrificed. It’s a day to remember to not forget. I will not forget.