Memorial day, here in America, is a solemn and somber day in America in which people from around the country can stop, remember, and thank the men and women who have fought and have given parts of their lives for our freedom.
It was once said that Freedom is a lot like oxygen: when you have it, nobody notices it…but go without it, and, wow, do you wish you had it!! It is SO true!
Even though I have celebrated Memorial Day every year since I was a kid, I was wondering the other day…what is the truth and facts behind this hallowed day? In today’s blog, I decided to find out and then, let you know by sharing my findings with you!
Memorial Day originally started during the Civil War.
Memorial Day used to be known as Decoration Day and was meant to honor both the Union and Confederate men who lost their lives during the Civil War. By the 1900’s it became a day to celebrate and remember all of the soldiers who died in the military.
One of the earliest ceremonies honoring the fallen was organized by freed slaves!
Memorial Day actually didn’t become an official federal holiday until 1971.
In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson named Waterloo, New York, as the official birthplace of Memorial Day.
According to custom, the American flag is to fly at half staff until noon, and then raise it to full staff until sunset.
In 1915, a Georgian school teacher named, Moina Michael, began a movement to make the Red Poppy the national symbol of tribute to veterans and for “keeping the faith with all who died.” The idea of wearing Red Poppies originated from a poem written in 1915, by John McCrae, “In Flanders Field.”
It is common for volunteers to place American flags on the graves in the national cemeteries.
It has been estimated that 30-35 million people travel by car over the Memorial Day Weekend.
The history, rituals, and the customs of the United States Military has always fascinated and intrigues me. I hold in highest esteem and respect, all people who has sacrificed their time and/or their lives for their country.
A military tradition that has always been deeply moving to me, is watching the person of a fallen spouse or child, receive the folded American flag during a funeral ceremony.
I often wondered the story behind the folded flag. Why is it folded in that particular manner? What does each fold represent? What is the history behind it?
I recently read a short article on the internet site, Folds of Honor, which answered my questions. It is for this reason that I thought that this would be a great article to share with you. I hope that this story will enlighten and encourage your heart as much as it did mine!
The folded flag has long been a dual symbol of sacrifice and the cost of freedom as well as hope and admiration for those defending our country. As we transition into using the folded American flag as the Folds of Honor logo, please take a moment to read what each of these folds represent:
The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.
The second fold is a symbol of our belief in eternal life.
The third fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veteran departing our ranks, and who gave a portion of his or her life for the defense of our country to attain peace throughout the world.
The fourth fold represents our weaker nature; as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace, as well as in times of war, for His divine guidance.
The fifth fold is a tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, “Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right, but it is still our country, right or wrong.”
The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
The seventh fold is a tribute to our armed forces, for it is through the armed forces that we protect our country and our flag against all enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of our republic.
The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor our mother, for whom it flies on Mother’s Day.
The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood, for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great have been molded.
The 10th fold is a tribute to father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since he or she was first born.
The 11th fold, in the eyes of Hebrew citizens, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The 12th fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son and Holy Ghost.
When the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, “In God We Trust.”
After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it has the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under Gen. George Washington and the sailors and Marines who served under Capt. John Paul Jones and were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the U.S. Armed Forces, preserving for us the rights, privileges and freedoms we enjoy today.
It has always fascinated me how many people have sacrificed their lives or the quality of their life for the freedom that all Americans enjoy every day. I can’t imagine the impact that these misfortunes have on not only the soldiers, but the lives of their families and friends.
I always take the time each Memorial Day to think of the soldiers and the freedom that we have and say a little prayer for all of those who are in harm’s way today.
Unfortunately, I am embarrassed and sorry to say, that I don’t think many people REALLY are grateful for the many things that they take pleasure in because of what our soldiers and veterans have sacrificed. It is for that reason that I decided to post some statistics of all of the wars that America has fought. I have found the following information on the “Department of Foreign Affairs” website called “America’s Wars.”
It is my hope that these stats will open your eyes and give you a clearer picture of exactly how much has been sacrificed for this country during the past 200 years or so.
American Revolution (1775-1783)
Total U.S. Service members (1) 217,000
Battle Deaths 4,435
Non-mortal Woundings 6,188
War of 1812 (1812-1815)
Total U.S. Service members 286,730
Battle Deaths 2,260
Non-mortal Woundings 4,505
Indian Wars (approx. 1817-1898)
Total U.S. Service members (VA estimate) 106,000
Battle Deaths (VA estimate) 1,000
Mexican War (1846-1848)
Total U.S. Service members 78,718
Battle Deaths 1,733
Other Deaths (In Theater) 11,550
Non-mortal Woundings 4,152
Civil War (1861-1865)
Total U.S. Service members (Union) 2,213,363
Battle Deaths (Union) 140,414
Other Deaths (In Theater) (Union) 224,097
Non-mortal Woundings (Union) 281,881
Total Service members (Conf.) (2) 1,050,000
Battle Deaths (Confederate) (3) 74,524
Other Deaths (In Theater) (Confederate) (3), (4) 59,297
Non-mortal Woundings (Confederate) Unknown
Spanish-American War (1898-1902)
Total U.S. Service members (Worldwide) 306,760
Battle Deaths 385
Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater) 2,061
Non-mortal Woundings 1,662
World War I (1917-1918)
Total U.S. Service members (Worldwide) 4,734,991
Battle Deaths 53,402
Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater) 63,114
Non-mortal Woundings 204,002
Living Veterans 0
World War II (1941 –1945)
Total U.S. Service members (Worldwide) 16,112,566
Battle Deaths 291,557
Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater) 113,842
Non-mortal Woundings 670,846
Living Veterans (5) 1,711,000
Korean War (1950-1953)
Total U.S. Service members (Worldwide) 5,720,000
Total Serving (In Theater) 1,789,000
Battle Deaths 33,739
Other Deaths (In Theater) 2,835
Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater) 17,672
Non-mortal Woundings 103,284
Living Veterans 2,275,000
Vietnam War (1964-1975)
Total U.S. Service members (Worldwide) (6) 8,744,000
Deployed to Southeast Asia (7) 3,403,000
Battle Deaths (8) 47,434
Other Deaths (In Theater) (8) 10,786
Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater) (8) 32,000
Non-mortal Woundings (9) 153,303
Living Veterans 5, 10 7,391,000
Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1990-1991)
Total U.S. Service members (Worldwide) 2,322,000
Deployed to Gulf 694,550
Battle Deaths 148
Other Deaths (In Theater) 235
Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater) 1,565
Non-mortal Woundings 467
Living Veterans 5, 10 2,244,583
America’s Wars Total (1775 -1991)
U.S. Military Service during Wartime 41,892,128
Battle Deaths 651,031
Other Deaths (In Theater) 308,800
Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater) 230,279
Non-mortal Woundings 1,431,290
Living War Veterans11 16,962,000
Living Veterans (Periods of War & Peace) 23,234,000
Since today is Memorial Day, I thought it would be nice to find a story of an unsung hero of a war and share it with you. The story I found for today’s article was written and adapted by Z.A.Mudge and took place in the Civil War. It involved a young Civil War soldier and a President that some of us may know…President Abraham Lincoln.
In the summer of 1862, a young man belonging to a Vermont regiment was found sleeping at his post. He was tried and sentenced to be shot. The day was fixed for the execution, and the young soldier calmly prepared to meet his fate.
Friends who knew of the case brought the matter to Mr. Lincoln’s attention. It seemed that the boy had been on duty one night, and on the following night he had taken the place of a comrade too ill to stand guard. The third night he had been again called out, and, being utterly exhausted, had fallen asleep at his post.
As soon as Mr. Lincoln understood the case, he signed a pardon, and sent it to the camp. The morning before the execution arrived, and the President had not heard whether the pardon had reached the officers in charge of the matter. He began to feel uneasy. He ordered a telegram to be sent to the camp, but received no answer. State papers could not fix his mind, nor could he banish the condemned soldier boy from his thoughts.
At last, feeling that he MUST KNOW that the lad was safe, he ordered the carriage and rode rapidly ten miles over a dusty road and beneath a scorching sun. When he reached the camp he found that the pardon had been received and the execution stayed.
The sentinel was released, and his heart was filled with lasting gratitude. When the campaign opened in the spring, the young man was with his regiment near Yorktown, Virginia. They were ordered to attack a fort, and he fell at the first volley of the enemy.
His comrades caught him up and carried him bleeding and dying from the field. “Bear witness,” he said, “that I have proved myself not a coward, and I am not afraid to die.” Then, making a last effort, with his dying breath he prayed for Abraham Lincoln.