Memorial Day 5/25/20

Respect from Richard Bleil

This Memorial Day, the US will no doubt top 100,000 in Coronavirus Deaths. Because of this, many people will forego their usual Memorial Day gatherings. And maybe it’s appropriate.

Memorial Day is set aside as a day of remembrance of those men and women of the military who gave their lives in war. Veteran’s Day(November 11) is set aside to celebrate those veterans who served previously in the military and came home (although some with severe disabilities), and Armed Forces Day (already celebrated on May 16, which is shameful for me as I didn’t blog about it) celebrates those still active members of our military.

I don’t agree with every armed conflict the US has been in. Many of them, in my opinion, are the direct result of failed diplomacy, but that in no way diminishes my respect and appreciation for those who have served, and are serving, in our military. The loss of life is just part of the overall cost of war, as it does not count the stress on the loved ones left behind, separation of families, and difficulty in dealing with their experiences after the conflict that many of our veterans struggle with causing even further damage to family and loved ones.

I was born during the Vietnamese conflict, which started in 1955 and ran for twenty years (to 1975). Today we are in the midst of our second two-decade war in Afghanistan which started in 2001. It’s sad that such long conflicts fade into background noise when our men and women remain in harm’s way. Today we remember the 2,216 men and women who died in Afghanistan, and 58,209 who perished in Vietnam. But that’s nowhere near the total count of those that we lost.

In just an abbreviated list, we lost 2,246 in the Spanish-American war, 4,576 in Iraq, 13,283 in the Mexican-American war, and another 18,000 in the War of 1812, 25,000 in the Revolutionary war and another 36,574 in just three years in Korea which ended a mere two years before we were back in the jungles of Vietnam and those aren’t even the “big ones”.

In the first war to end all wars, World War I, we lost 116,516, and 405,399 in the second war to end all wars, World War II. But even these pale in comparison to the one war that lost more American lives still. The one war that lost roughly as many American lives as all other armed conflicts combined lost an estimated 755,000 people. Have you figured it out? Do you know the war?

The Civil War. According to my resource, we lost an estimated 2.4% of the entire US population in the Civil War, from 1861-1865. While people try to paint this war as some form of higher altruistic conflict about state rights, the reality it was about slavery, plain and simple. The question at hand was if one man could own another. The wounds from this war cut so deeply that even today there are people carrying confederate flags and calling for conflict, with anger being stoked by online bots from foreign countries. Racism and white nationalism has been on a dramatic rise in the past few years and Corvid-19 has been the perfect catalyst for anger and calls for rebellion.

This Memorial Day let’s take a little time to pull back and just take a breath. Let’s remember that there have been no greater losses to the US than when we fight each other. As we pay tribute to those who fell for our Constitution, let’s remember that this same Constitution was designed to allow for open discussion and mechanisms to resolve internal conflict without resorting to violence. Let’s take some time to remember that while we have certain guaranteed freedoms, we also have responsibilities to each other.

To all veterans of this country who have returned and are still serving, I want to thank you for what you do. Without you to protect us, I have no doubt that we would lose the freedoms that we have as Americans. For those who have lost loved ones in armed conflicts, you have my most sincere sympathy. I’m so sorry for your loss, and while I know that my words cannot bring them back to you, please know that I grieve with you. For those who have laid down their lives for me, I cannot begin to show my gratitude and appreciation. All I can do is promise to use the freedoms you have fought and died to give to me in the most responsible, somber and respectful way that I can.

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