Every Memorial Day we see heartfelt tributes to our troops and veterans. They’re worthy of year-round thanks, especially with so many current service members coming home from multiple combat tours.
But today isn’t Armed Forces Day, which took place May 17, or Veterans Day, which is Nov. 11. Those days honor the living. Memorial Day recognizes those who died while serving in the U.S. military.
We don’t often think about how many men and women have given their lives for our nation and our freedoms. Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of the summer vacation season. For Clark County School District students on nine-month calendars, the number of school days before break is down to single digits. At public colleges and universities, the spring semester is already over. Memorial Day has become a day for fun, family, friends and shopping.
Previous generations made sacrifices that are unimaginable today. Parents who lost all their children. Towns that saw all their young men enlist to fight overseas. Without this selflessness, our country and our world would be a much less free, much more dangerous place — for everyone.
So, if only for a moment, right now, take the time to read the following list. Reflect upon how many Americans have died to make your life as good as it is today. Regardless of whether you agreed with the U.S. government’s decision to put our men and women in harm’s way, honor them with a prayer or a toast. This day is for them.
These are some of the conflicts that have claimed the lives of more than 1 million Americans. (Figures are approximate and include noncombat deaths.)
■ Revolutionary War (1775-1783): 25,000
■ Northwest Indian War (1785-1795): 1,000
■ War of 1812 (1812-1815): 20,000
■ Mexican-American War (1846-1848): 13,000
■ Civil War (1861-1865): 625,000
■ Great Sioux War (1876-1877): 300
■ Spanish-American War (1898): 2,400
■ Philippine-American War (1898-1902): 4,200
■ World War I (1917-1918): 117,000
■ World War II (1941-1945): 407,000
■ Cold War (1947-1991): 32
■ Korean War (1950-1953): 37,000
■ Vietnam War (1964-1973): 58,000
■ Beirut (1982-1984): 266
■ Grenada (1983): 19
■ Panama (1989): 23
■ Persian Gulf War (1991): 269
■ Somalia intervention (1992-1995): 43
■ Iraq (2003-2011) 4,500
■ Afghanistan (2002-present) 2,200
God bless America. Happy Memorial Day.
A version of this editorial originally appeared on this page in 2013.