Lest we forget: Memorial Day is not about a long weekend, a vacation from work, backyard barbecues or trips to the beach. This federal holiday — the last Monday of May each year — is a somber day, meant to honor and remember all those who have died while serving in the United States armed forces.
It is not to be confused with Veterans Day, when we celebrate the service of all military veterans, living and dead. On Memorial Day, we instead commemorate all those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.
This country is, of course, built on the backs of these brave military men and women who gave their all to build the America we know and love.
And so we honor the 25,000 colonial soldiers who died in the American Revolution of injuries and disease; the 500,000 American soldiers who died in the American Civil War; the 116,000 American soldiers who died in World War I; the 405,000 American soldiers who died in World War II; the 54,000 American soldiers who died in the Korean War; the 90,000 American soldiers who died in the Vietnam War; the 1,500 American soldiers who died in the Persian Gulf War; the 4,424 American soldiers who died as a result of the Iraq War and the 2,372 American soldiers who have died in Iraq — among so many others.
As Will Carleton once wrote: “Over all our happy country, over all our nation spread — is a band of noble heroes — is our Army of the Dead!” This weekend ought to be a time of gratitude, of commemoration, of humble thanks to that Army (and Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Air Force.)
Words are inadequate to convey our thanks. We must rely instead on the immortal words of U.S. Gen. George Patton.
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died,” he said. “Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.”