Yes, it is Memorial Day weekend, and for many Americans it is another holiday, albeit with precursors to the 4th of July, American flags, and hot dogs. It seems that we have developed short attention spans, given the acceleration of information, the associated decline in verity, the expansion of scope, the collapse of objectivity, the explosion of assertions, and the evaporation of examination.
This is my 71st Memorial Day; I was born two weeks after Japan surrendered, ending World War II. Sixty to eighty million died in that horror, about three percent of the over two billion people who inhabited the earth in 1940.
Twenty to twenty-five million military deaths included about five million prisoners of war. Some estimates show thirty-five million civilians died as a direct result of the war, and another twenty million died from disease and starvation. No one has tallied the deaths and disabilities of the aftermath. The mental scars darkened the lives of the survivors for generations.
More than four hundred thousand Americans died in that war, with another six hundred seventy thousand wounded. In other words, one million Americans dead or damaged.
Then, only five years later, America engaged in the Korean “Conflict.” Thirty-six thousand killed, one hundred three thousand wounded.
Eleven years passed before our official entrance into the Vietnam war. Fifty-eight thousand killed, one hundred fifty-three thousand wounded. My brother and I are fortunate, surviving, Vietnam veterans. We both have friends on the lists of dead and wounded. My wife’s little brother is one of the fifty-eight thousand.
Our casualties in the Middle East are not final, but six or seven thousand have died, nearly fifty thousand have been wounded.
This is the evidence of our courage and strength, despite the critics of those wars. Please take a few minutes to remember the grim violence, the constant terror, the pain, agony, suffering, and sacrifice of those men and women, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.
I still cry.