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.
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.
Memorial Day taking place on Monday, May 27, 2013 this year and with that, it’s time for some Memorial Day quotes. The following is a collection of some of the best Memorial Day quotes and sayings that you can share with your loved ones and honor those who have gone before us.
As Memorial Day rolls around, I am reminded of a story that I heard. Though the exactness of it I cannot confirm, I am assured its basis is quite factual, and its message definitely deserves to be retold.
The story is of a man, Andrew, who was known all his life for selfless sacrifice and good works. He always stood in defense of the defenseless, and toiled without tiring, standing up for the downtrodden and underprivileged. As he grew old, and people tried to honor him for his well-lived life of service, he was reluctant to accept the praise and attention that his community desired to heap upon him. It was then, for the first time, that he told a story that had burned deep in his heart and was hard for him to relate.
Andrew was a young man, thirteen years old and living in Austria, when the Germans invaded. The Austrians, brave and proud, decided to fight back. In the town where Andrew lived, the men and teenage boys organized and destroyed a power plant that the Germans relied on to continue their war effort. The men and boys all knew this would cause great hardship on themselves as well, for they also relied on the power from the plant. But the thing they had not counted on was the swift and severe retribution that would come from the Nazi invaders.
The next morning, before the sun was even up, trucks rolled into town. Soon, the sound of marching soldiers was heard in the streets. The men and boys of the town, twelve years old and older, were ordered to the town square. Andrew found himself standing in a line with the other men and boys, still trying to wipe the sleep from his eyes.
The commanding officer berated them, and told them they were fools to think they could stand against the might of the German army. He told them they were nothing, and their minuscule efforts would not slow down the German war effort, but it would hurt them because a price was going to be paid for their rebellion. He then said that every 20th man in the line would be shot.
As each 20th man was pulled from the line and marched away, Andrew looked down the line and started counting. With horror, he realized that he stood in a 20th position. He trembled with fear as the soldiers moved closer and closer to him, and the shots started to ring out at the edge of town where the unfortunate men were being taken.
As the Germans continued to move down the line, Andrew could see others counting and their eyes turning to him with a look of pity and concern. Andrew found himself wanting to flee, but too frightened to move. Even if he tried to run, the soldiers on the trucks, with the mounted machine guns, would cut him down before he could get ten yards.
But then, in the instant that the last man before Andrew was pulled from the line, the Germans turned their eyes away, and Andrew felt a hand on his shoulder. The hand tightened quickly, and before he knew what had happened, he was jerked forcibly over one spot, and the old man who had been standing next to him moved swiftly to switch positions.
Andrew looked up at the silver haired man and the man smiled. Just before he was taken from the line and led away, the old man spoke quietly to Andrew. “Your life is no longer just your own. Live it for both of us.”
Andrew watched silently as the old man disappeared from view toward the edge of the village. His heart jumped as the shots sounded, shots that Andrew knew should have been his own. In that instant, tears flowing down his face, he determined he would indeed live his life for both of them. From that day he had tried to live so that the unknown old man would have felt his sacrifice was well repaid.
Each time I consider the flags flying by the many graves in the cemetery, thinking back on Andrew’s story, I realized that no one’s life belongs just to them. Each of us owes a debt to many who have paid prices through hardship, hard work, and even the sacrifice of their lives, from which we have benefitted.
With the wind gently whipping the flags in the breeze, I, too, renewed my own dedication in how I live my life.