Memorial Day 2018. Please, please don’t forget what it’s about.

In an article titled Memorial Day: The number of Americans who have died in battle since the Revolutionary War Kurtis Lee brings us up to 2017 in the number of men and women who have died to keep this country free. I want to share those numbers with you. Why? Because it’s critically important to each of us that we remember the cost of our freedom as we celebrate Memorial Day 2018.

I can hear some of you scoffing and thinking “What freedom?” That’s a really good question and we should ponder it. You see, I was ready to write another scorching article about consumerism and how shopping has taken over absolutely every holiday we celebrate. But, on reflection, I realized that shopping is one of the freedoms we have whether it messes up holiday celebration or not. Yes, we have the freedom to shop. Manufactureres and retailers have the freedom to have sales and discounted prices (whether these are real or not. I always wonder if they mark up the price so they can mark it down). They have the freedom to shout their sales at us on TV, fill our email boxes with advertising and alert us on our phones. There is almost no place we can go without hearing about slashed prices and things you’ve just “gotta have.” They have the freedom to do that.

I don’t intend to buy anything today, but I have the freedom to do so.

Here are the total battle deaths from America’s wars, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. (These numbers do not include those who died in theater but not in battle.)

AMERICAN REVOLUTION (1775-1783)                                       4,435

WAR OF 1812 (1812-1815)                                                                   2,260

INDIAN WARS (APPROXIMATELY 1817-1898)                        1,000

MEXICAN-AMERICAN WAR (1846-1848)                                   1,733

CIVIL WAR (1861-1865)                                                                     140,414 (Union)
74,524 (Confederate)

SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR (1898)                                                  385

WORLD WAR I (1917-1918)                                                            53,402

WORLD WAR II (1941 –1945)                                                      291,557
(A total of 670,846 service members suffered
nonmortal wounds.)

KOREAN WAR (1950-1953)                                                           33,739

VIETNAM WAR (1964-1975)                                                         47,434
(In addition to those killed in battle, there were
10,786 deaths in theater.)

PERSIAN GULF WAR                                                                              148
(Desert Shield/Desert Storm 1990-1991)  148

GLOBAL WAR ON TERRORISM (2001 to present)           6,915

So amidst our shopping, let us honor those men and women who have given their lives since the beginning of this country.  As you look at the numbers above realize that these numbers represent those who died. Remember, as well,  those whose lives were shattered by war.

The numbers are cold.

They do not tell the story of those who were injured mentally, physically and/or emotionally and unable to resume any normal kind of life once they returned home.  And they don’t talk about flashbacks, reliving the horror happening all around them. Nor do they represent the number of families that were decimated, left without a mother or a father. They don’t tell you what it’s like to come back to a country that has no place for them anymore and, forced to homelessness, barely survive. There are no numbers to express the raw grief and hopelessness that continues long after the war is over.

Today, think about those things.

And think about this as well.  Isn’t there some other way to resolve differences between individuals, groups and countries? Do we have to kill each other to settle a grievance?

I cry out to the young people of today not to let this happen to your generation. Become leaders who know how to negotiate, to reconcile differences in an equitable and peaceful way. With the Internet, the world has become much smaller. We know people in every country.  They are no different from us. They hurt, bleed, love, care, sing, grieve, and, yes, even shop—just like we do. We need to learn to talk with them peacefully.

And if you HAVE to go shopping today, how about picking up something for a veteran in the hospital or making a donation to a group that is dedicated to helping those who are still suffering from what happened to them while they were defending our freedom.

On this Memorial Day 2018, I do remember and I am very, very grateful.

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