Guest post by Ryan King, author of the post-apocalyptic Land of Tomorrow Trilogy.
Happy Memorial Day! I love history, so I decided to conduct a little research on the holiday. Here is what I discovered:
Memorial Day is a day to remember those who have died in military service to our country. It did not officially become a national holiday until 1967 when President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law. Before that time it was commonly known as Decoration Day and celebrated widely on 1 or 30 May. Originally it was a day to tidy up and decorate graves of military fallen. In earlier times family members had to maintain the upkeep of their own family member’s graves
Decoration Day started after the Civil War. The origin of the practice is widely tied to 1 May 1865 in Charleston, SC at the Charleston Race Course. This race course was used as a POW camp for Union troops during the war. Many died there of malnutrition and disease and were buried in hasty and unmarked graves. On 1 May 1865, about 10,000 people gathered there to repair the graveyard, tidy up graves, and build a wall around the site. Most of the 10,000 were newly freed and liberated slaves and it took some courage to do this act given the environment in the newly defeated confederacy. The practice grew steadily in the north and south until it was officially recognized in 1967 and in its present form that we celebrate today.
Memorial Day is often about family reunions, cook-outs, and relaxation, but it is more. I want to give you some numbers to consider:
Over 25,000 – Revolutionary War (out of a total population of about 2.5 million)
Over 15,000 – War of 1812
Over 13,000 – Mexican-American War
Nearly 750,000 – Civil War (represents 1 in 50 Americans at the time)
Nearly 7,000 – Spanish-American and Philippine Wars
Over 116,000 – WWI (in a little over one year of fighting)
Over 406,000 – WWII
Nearly 37,000 – Korean War (in a little over a year of fighting)
Over 58,000 – Vietnam War
Nearly 4,500 – Iraq
Over 2,200 in Afghanistan to date
These are number of American fallen not counting those lose in countless smaller skirmishes and conflicts. In all about 1.5 million Americans have died for their country in uniform.
These are numbers, but that’s not all they are. Each number represents someone’s father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, husband, wife, or friend. I’m sure many of them are known by people reading this blog. The loss felt by the families and friends of those fallen is sometimes overlooked, but one of the greatest sources of grief. I recently read a poem that put me in mind of such lasting loss.
Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling into at night. I miss you like hell. – Edna St. Vincent Millay
We say they are “gone but not forgotten.” Let that be our honor to them and their sacrifice.
Ryan King is a career army officer with multiple combat tours who continues to serve in the military. He has lived, worked, and traveled throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. He writes post-apocalyptic, dystopian, thriller, horror, and action short stories, short novels, and novels.