Monday, May 30, 2016

The Real Meaning of Memorial Day

Today, May 30th, 2016, is Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is dedicated to the many heroic soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and members of the Coast Guard who have given their lives in the defense of our Great Country.

In fact, a total of 1,217,273 brave souls* have died in combat since the Revolutionary War began.  And today is dedicated to their memory.  

They all made the ultimate sacrifice for their Country.  Had they not done so, we could very well be speaking British English now, or even German or Japanese.  

More than 2,400 veterans are dying every day.  More than 400 World War 2 veterans are counted among that number. Those remaining are in the nineties.  And less than 16,000 of them remain.  

More than 50,000 soldiers, sailors and Marines, as an example, died just in the assault on Okinawa!  That statistic should be staggering to anyone who contemplates the enormity of war, and America's commitment to keeping our wonderful Country safe and secure.

Our commitment to winning the Second World War was total. Our Country dedicated more than 50% of our Gross National Product to winning it.  More than 16,000,000 Americans took part in this Great War.  405,399* died while fighting it. 

The average age of those sailors and soldiers and Marines was nineteen.  Nineteen!  Nineteen year-olds today seem to need a "safe place" to go and suck their thumb when they get offended.

Americans who couldn't take part in the War personally did so here at home by conserving food, fuel and natural resources, and by buying War Bonds to finance the effort. As a baby born during the height of WWII, I recall my father saving up War stamps our Government issued back then so he could use them to buy a bag of sugar, or flour, or potatoes, or even a new set of tires for the family car.  That's because the boys "over there" needed these items more than we did.

Our Country's total commitment to the War was demonstrated by the Ford Motor Company's Willow Run, Michigan's assembly plant's capability of putting out a brand spanking-new B-24 Liberator bomber in just over three and one-half hours! That's start to finish!  They built thousands of them, for thousands of them were needed to defeat the Axis Powers.

For a Country that now has great difficulty in keeping its planes flying and its ships sailing, with the smallest military we've had since before WWII began (!) (the subject of another posting to come), we should be in awe of what can be accomplished when we're all focused on a achieving a common objective.  We should try that again some time.

Today, in the era of all volunteer service, less than 1% of our citizens have served their Country in uniform!  

I am among that number.

The remaining 99% should enjoy their hamburgers and hot dogs and ribs and potato salad and icy cold beer today.  But while doing so, they should also take a moment to silently pay their respects to the generations of fine Americans who went off to war before them and made the ultimate sacrifice so we could all enjoy a barbecue and a day off.

So, simply saying to a veteran, "Thank you for your service," while surely appreciated, could well ring hollow unless the underlying understanding of what it takes in terms of bravery and commitment to don the uniform and go off to war is contemplated.  

Seek out a vet.  Shake his or her hand.  Wish him or her well. And say, "Thank you for your service." And mean it.  He or she will appreciate it.  And you will be better off for it...

* best available statistics.  

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