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EDITORIAL: A day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice

It’s Memorial Day, the day we see heartfelt tributes to our troops and veterans. They’re worthy of year-round thanks, of course, especially with so many service members coming home from multiple combat tours.

But today isn’t Armed Forces Day, which took place May 21, or Veterans Day, which is Nov. 11. Those days honor the living. Memorial Day recognizes those who gave their lives while serving in the U.S. military.

Yes, Memorial Day also marks the unofficial start of the summer vacation season. But we cannot let fade into the past the reality that previous generations made sacrifices which seem unimaginable today and that such selflessness continues to this day.

To their credit, Americans have never really forgotten the men and women who gave the final measure to protect the freedoms we now hold so casually. But their sacrifices were safely pigeonholed in a brief ceremony at the cemetery, a few moments of kids scrambling to pass out flags in the sun — Memorial Day. Not so distressing, that way.

So, if only for a moment, right now, take the time to read the following list. Reflect upon how many Americans have died to ensure the freedoms and opportunities we enjoy today. Whether you agreed with the decision to put our men and women in harm’s way or not, 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 (2001-2021) 2,402

God bless America on Memorial Day.

A version of this editorial originally appeared on this page in 2013.

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