Weekly column in the Washington Times Communities by Laurie Edwards-Tate

Many of us are looking forward to a three-day weekend. Many of us think of it as the gateway to summer, a break to enjoy warmer weather, family, friends, and favorite activities. I wholeheartedly embrace our national celebration of the American way of life.

But let’s please remember the reason for the freedoms we enjoy as Americans today: the sacrifices made by millions of individuals and their families through military service to our great nation.

Honoring those who defend our nation on Memorial Day.

Waterloo, New York is credited as the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. The people of Waterloo started a community celebration on May 5, 1866. It was originally called “Decoration Day” and was intended as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of thousands of Civil War dead with flowers.

The name was changed to Memorial Day in 1882, and it was moved in 1971 to the last Monday in May.

Memorial Day weekend is traditionally observed with by parades, memorial speeches, reenactments and living history demonstrations, and the decoration of sacred graves at our national cemeteries with flowers and flags.

A lovely modern tradition began in 1997 and is now officially recognized by the President and Members of Congress.  The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3:00 pm local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.

The Moment of Remembrance was initiated by No Greater Love, a Washington, DC-based national humanitarian organization. As Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states: “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”

Boiling the honorable contributions made by those who died defending our nation to mere numbers might seem impersonal. But is it also sobering, and enlightening. For each number in this list, there is a fallen hero, a family in mourning… and a grateful nation.

Revolutionary War (1775-1783)
Served: No data
Deaths: 4,435
Wounded 6,188

War of 1812 (1812-1815)
Served: 286,730
Battle Deaths: 2,260
Wounded: 4,505

Mexican War (1846-1848)
Served: 78,718
Battle Deaths: 1,733
Other Deaths: 11,550
Wounded: 4,152

Civil War (1861-1865)
Served: 2,213,363
Battle Deaths: 140,414
Other Deaths: 224,097
Wounded: 281,881

Spanish-American War (1895-1902)
Served: 306,760
Battle Deaths: 385
Other Deaths: 2,061
Wounded: 1,662

World War I (1917-1918)
Served: 4,734,991
Battle Deaths: 53,402
Other Deaths: 63,114
Wounded: 204,002

World War II (1941-1946)
Served: 16,112,566
Battle Deaths: 291,557
Other Deaths: 113,842
Wounded: 671,846

Korean War (1950-1953)
Served: 5,720,000
Battle Deaths: 33,651
Other Deaths: 3,262
Wounded: 103,284

Vietnam War (1964-1973)
Served: 8,744,000
Battle Deaths: 47,378
Other Deaths: 10,799
Wounded: 153,303

Gulf War (1991)
Served: 24,100
Deaths: 162

Afghanistan War (2002-present)
Deaths: 2,449 (as of May 20, 2011)

Iraq War (2003-present)
Deaths: 4,771 (as of May 20, 2011)
Wounded in action: 29,978

Source: Department of Defense, United States Central Command, and Iraq Coalition Casualty Count

Let us pause to remember for just a moment the sacrifices of these Americans, and let us remember on Memorial Day and every single day that freedom isn’t free.

Happy Memorial Day and God Bless America!

Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!

NEXT WEEK: Saving the CLASS Act

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