Approximately 1.37 million Americans have given their life in defense of our country. That figure might be a little low. Start with the American Revolution and work your way to Afghanistan. The figure includes those who died fighting for the south during the Civil War.
Clearly, freedom is not free. As of this writing 6,054 Americans have died fighting for freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Sunday May 22, 2011, about a dozen veterans from American Legion Post 149 and family members gathered at Lakeside cemetery to put flags on the graves of nearly 600 veterans buried there. They have been doing this for decades. Every now and then someone will inform them they missed a veteran and a flag will be placed. Graves of veterans date back to the Civil War.
Memorial Day is a day to remember and be thankful for those who served and paid the price. Yes, there will be picnics, services, sales, and all that goes with a holiday – but for some it will be a painful day. Loved ones will be remembered, tears will be shed again, and stories will be told.
For those who served during a war, it is a day of emotion. Veterans will attend services and memories will flow.
It is important to remember that the more than 1.37 million who lost their lives were at one time living breathing people. They had families, loved ones, they dreamed of the future – but all of that was lost.
Many who lost their lives did so in lonely, obscure places. They died fighting in places most of us have never seen. They fought under conditions most have never endured. Perhaps they died with their friends, or trying to help someone, maybe they were shot out of the air, or maybe they died in a miserable Prisoner of War camp. Perhaps they died in hospital of wounds, or illness contracted while serving. Death on the battlefield is never pretty.
One of the creeds and promises of veteran’s organizations is to never forget the sacrifices of our brothers and sisters in arms. Too bad society doesn’t feel that way. Nobody really likes to think about war, and most ignore it. It might surprise you to know that most people who serve don’t like war. In the military, you don’t have a choice – you go where they send you. Violence and death are integral part of that experience.
On Memorial Day I have people I will remember – not that I don’t remember them every day. I will honor my father, Joseph A. Mishler, who passed three years ago. He was a WWII Army veteran, a grunt. I plan to drive up to Big Rapids and put a flag on his grave and attach a 10th Mountain Division patch to his marker. I will remember a kid named George who was killed in 1967 in Vietnam. He was a radioman and I hear his voice every day. There are others.
Memorial Day is a day for all Americans to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our country and for freedom. You should also realize that as I write this, other Americans are in harm’s way.
Let us not forget the sacrifices of those brave Americans.