Memorial Day may have different meanings to different people; for some it is remembering a father, brother, sister, or mother who passed while in the act of duty. Unfortunately, for others today is just another day on the calendar, this is simply unacceptable. Therefore, I wish to demonstrate in this speech how important this day truly is. In order to do this I will show the three perspectives in which I view Memorial Day, from that of a historical background, the stance of a fellow veteran, and that of a grateful American citizen.
From the first rallying cries of the Revolutionary War to recent operations in the Middle East, history has created heroes and their stories serve as inspiration to us all. In order to truly exemplify the magnitude by which wars affect our nation, I will lay out some numbers before you;
• In 80 months of the Revolutionary War there were 10,623 casualties, with 4,435 deaths, or about 55 Americans dying each month of the war.
• In 37 months of the Korean War there were 136,935 casualties, with 33,651 deaths, or about 909 Americans dying in combat each month of the war.
• In 90 months of the Vietnam War there were 211, 471 casualties, with 47,369 deaths, or about 526 Americans dying in combat each month of the war.
• In 1 month of the Gulf War there were 760 casualties, with 293 deaths, or 148 Americans dying in combat during the month of the war.
• In 14 months of fighting in Iraq, there have been 4,685 casualties, with 803 deaths, or 57 Americans dying each month of the war.
• In 48 months of World War II there were 1,078,162 American casualties, with 407,316 death, or 6,639 Americans dying in combat each month of the war.
These numbers are jarring, particularly when one realizes that these digits are not faceless, they each represent a brave soul who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. Today is a day that we give back a little bit of our life and comfort that we owe to the spirit of these men and women.
I was fortunate enough to be able to serve in the Marine Corps, and through my service I truly gained an understanding of the family like bond that develops between soldiers. In the military one develops a sense of togetherness. You wake up day by day with your peers, struggle through training exercises, persevere through battle, and if able, survive through your mission. Through these trials there is a mutual understanding that you are there to help in any way you can and that those around you are also ready to help when you need it most. This is a bond that is not easily broken. When another bombing, or enemy attack occurs, you can not help but feel your heart drop – another family member has passed. This is an experience not easily forgotten from the mind’s eye. Therefore, Memorial Day to me represents the unity of the armed forces, and our collective sorrow in loosing fellow siblings.
We must look beyond the smoky haze of our barbecues and gain a true appreciation for our liberty, and those who fought for it. As an American I am thankful to be able to stand before you today, in this great nation with liberties that over 3 billion people are unable to enjoy today. Our freedom of speech, religion, assembly, the right to a representative form of government, all these tenants that we in the United States hold true would be but dreams if not for those who gave their all. It is said that “We must be willing to pay a price for freedom” many of us have not faced the need to defend our freedom, that is because we have a standing military who daily fulfills this payment on our behalf. The least we can do as citizens is set this day aside in their memory.
The men and women we revere today have taught us great qualities, a legacy for future generations. They have taught us to face adversity head on and respond with a resilient spirit. They have taught us courage, and a loving spirit. They have taught us the true value of our democratic society. How then can we ever honor and repay these brave souls, both alive and passed?
We can start by truly observing this Memorial Day, and continuing our sense of gratitude into every day of the year. We can also take steps to help those these fallen heroes have left behind, family members, friends, loved ones who may need comfort in these troublesome times. We can further take time to help those living veterans by listening to their story and emulating their patriotic character.
As citizens we are not only in debt to these men and women for ensuring our rights but we have a duty to pass these ideals on to our children and grandchildren. We owe it to our fellow man to be vigilant in protecting these liberties on the home-front. The spirit of the American people is a strong one, and its flame will not flicker anytime soon.