Full transparency. I’m not sure how to start this post. The subject material that I’m going to talk about is sensitive and each category produces deep emotions rooted in the personal experience of those who may favor one side over the other.
Today is Memorial Day. I think I read somewhere that It’s the 150th Memorial Day celebration in US history. Admittedly, my go to for this day is to thank the military members I see for their service and dedication. Their sacrifice away from their families, for the uncertainty of having to go protect a nation at a moment’s notices. I inevitably get back a response that goes something like, “This day is not for those living, but those who have paid the Ultimate Sacrifice in service to their country.” That diversion will make you pause and ponder the significance and somnolence of this day.
If you follow me in any sort of capacity, you’ll know that I have a passion for justice and I strive to understand injustice to the best of my ability so that we stop the cycles to the best of ours. So that we elevate our nation to live up to the principle that Thomas Jefferson set forth in the declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Yet that is not our only guiding principle. The Pledge of Allegiance gives further guidance on this, “. . . I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, Under God indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." But even before that was penned and recited in school and events around the country, the document most important to the rule of law in the United States opens this way.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
- Preamble of The United States Constitution
These are the principles that thousands have laid their life on the line for to protect, past and present.
I’m a supporter of the National Anthem protest. This does not mean I’m anti-military service members. I think protest are a part of America’s DNA. Yet we’ve always had a love-hate relationship with protest and seem to look favorably back on them when history reevaluates the true purpose. I think the National Anthem protest has been misconstrued as an attack on our military members. Please know that this is simply not so. So, in an effort to bridge the gap, I endeavor to engage conversations with friends who are on the proverbial ‘Other side’.
I was in conversation with a past coworker who I respect and have deep affection for. In many ways, she has supported and lifted up the person that I am today. The nurse that I am today. We differ politically but we have a deep love and compassion for each other. In fact, her and her husband without hesitation or any expectation of payment helped me move some items from my old apartment once. Not only without expectation, but with eagerness and joy. These are moments and acts of kindness I can never forget. She comes from a long line of military family members some of whom have paid the ultimate sacrifice. Despite what you think about war. . . These individuals have guaranteed our freedoms and our voices as a society throughout the years.
She challenged me to find some way to honor the service members today. I set my fingers off to google to find events in my area. They are severely lacking. It appears that Memorial Day has become more of a day to enjoy the freedoms fallen service members fought for instead of a day to commemorate their sacrifice. I suppose this at the end of the day is important. . . but I know in times past, I have given little to no thought of these sacrifices. I imagine that this isn’t a joyous day for all. I imagine it’s not a joyous day for those family members who lost family members in the attack in Niger or Benghazi. I imagine it’s not a joyous day for the Khan family or the thousands of other family members who do not get to celebrate with their love ones today. . . Despite making a choice to pay the ultimate sacrifice, it does not erase the pain of loss. The loss of birthdays spent with children, parents, grandparent, wives, husbands. The loss of holiday family photos op, and jokes at family reunions or dinners. The loss of arguments that push families closer together, the loss of being present for the birth of a child. It does not fill the void.
Below is an article repost from Thebalancecareers.com on just the number of service members lost since September 11th, 2001. The day all our lives changed forever: You can find the article here:
The Cost of War Since September 11, 2001
By: Stew Smith
What is the real cost of war? On just one day in September 2001, 2,996 people lost their lives when the twin towers fell in New York, at the Pentagon, and on the each of the three hijacked planes. When the leader of Al-Qaeda Osama Bin Laden was killed by U.S. special forces, the war on terror did not subside. In fact, the monetary costs continued each year since then at a steady rate in defense and homeland security spending.
In all, the U.S. government has spent more than $7.6 trillion on defense and homeland security since the 9/11 attacks.
As of April 2018 (according to the Department of Defense Casualty Report, here are casualties from the various campaigns in the subsequent War on Terrorism.
Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) - This campaign includes casualties that occurred between October 7, 2001, and December 31, 2014. The DoD reports 2,346 military deaths and four civilian deaths, with a total of 20,095 injured in and around Afghanistan. There are other locations in the world that are classified within the OEF spectrum. These include deaths and injuries in Guantanamo Bay (Cuba), Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Philippines, Seychelles, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.
Operation Freedom Sentinel (OFS) - This campaign includes casualties that occurred in Afghanistan immediately after OEF concluded December 31, 2014. OFS began on 1 January 2015. To date, there are 49 U.S. deaths and 268 wounded in this current military operation.
Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) - This campaign includes casualties that occurred in Iraq starting March 19, 2003. On August 31, 2010, President Obama announced that the American combat mission in Iraq had ended. There were 4,424 U.S. deaths and 31,957 wounded in that military operation. These casualties occurred in Iraq as well as in the Arabian Sea, Bahrain, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, Kuwait, Oman, Persian Gulf, Qatar, Red Sea, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates. Prior to March 19, 2003, casualties in these countries were considered OEF.
Operation New Dawn (OND) - This campaign includes casualties that occurred between September 1, 2010, and December 31, 2011. There were 73 U.S. deaths and 295 wounded in this operation. These deaths occur in the areas of the Arabian Sea, Bahrain, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Persian Gulf, Qatar, Red Sea, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates during the dates above.
Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) - Effective October 15, 2014, OIR was created to wage war against the terrorist group the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, another name for the Islamic State) along the Syrian-Iraqi border. To date, there are 62 U.S. deaths and 64wounded in OIR. OIR campaign includes casualties that occurred in Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, the Mediterranean Sea east of 25° Longitude, the Persian Gulf, and the Red Sea.
War on Terrorism Casualties by Military Branch
The Army (including the Army National Guard and Reserves) comprises 49 percent of the total DoD force but sustained more than 70 percent of the combat deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Marine Corps (including the Reserves) makes up only 10 percent of the total DoD force but experienced 23 percent of the combat-related deaths.
The Navy (including Reserves) make up 19 percent of the total DoD force and sustained over 2 percent of the total combat casualties. The Air Force (including Air National Guard and Reserves) comprises 21 percent of the total DOD force and experienced just over 1 percent of the total casualties.
The active duty forces comprise 55 percent of the total DOD force and have experienced more than 80 percent of the total deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Reserve forces (Reserves and National Guard) make up 45 percent of the force and received nearly 19 percent of the total casualties.
Just under 3 percent of the total fatalities were women, who make up 16 percent of the total DOD force. Men, who make up 84 percent of the total force experienced 97 percent of the deaths in the two theaters of operation.
Previous War Casualties
In contrast, during the First Gulf War (1990-1991), 382 American service members died in-theater, 147 (38 percent) of those a result of direct combat.
During the Vietnam War (1964 to 1975), there were 47,413 U.S. Military battle-related deaths, and 10,785 service members died from other causes.
In the five years of World War II (1940-1945), 291,557 American troops lost their lives in combat, and 671,846 were wounded.
The article does not even mention those lost in World War I, The Korean War, and many other military conflicts where service members have paid the ultimate sacrifice. While these are numbers. These numbers have names. The numbers have families. Viewing them as a number takes away their humanity. They are a multitude of citizens who have laid their life on the line for you and me. For one day, I can lift these fallen up. It does not invalidate the meaning behind our knee that we take for injustice.
The beautiful thing about symbols is that they often have multiple meanings. In America, where we are over 3 million strong, it must take the course of wisdom that these symbols are important for each person, dictated by each individual personal experience. We have to lift up each other’s experience, honor them. We must honor the fallen, their sacrifice, the black and brown bodies on the street, and the nation’s history with injustice as we continue to strive for ‘a more perfect Union’. But for today, we honor the fallen service members, who continue to fight for our freedoms. Those service members are Americans and Americans come from all over the world. We are White, Black, Brown, Yellow. So, while there might be limited events that honor the fallen, here’s some ways we can honor those souls who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
K. Bothwell posted this article on a Geico Insurance blog. It can be found here:
For many, Memorial Day means a day off of work, barbecue cookouts, family picnics, and community pools opening for the summer. But as we all know, the true meaning of Memorial Day is much more than an “opening day” for summer fun. It’s a calling to honor those courageous men and women who have served and given their lives for the causes of freedom, liberty, and peace.
Here are just a few things you can do to honor Memorial Day and pay respects to our fallen heroes.
Volunteer to lay flowers or plant flags at your local Veterans cemetery.
Did you know Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day? After the Civil War, it was designated as a time to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers. By the 20th century, the day became known as Memorial Day and was extended to honor all Americans who have died in Military Service.
Sponsor a thank-you bouquet.
If you’re unable to volunteer your time to decorate graves, consider sponsoring a bouquet of flowers through the Memorial Day Foundation, which lays the bouquets at a War Memorial of your choice. You can also include a “thank you” message or dedication with your donation, which is delivered with the bouquet.
Provide financial support for families of the fallen.
The USO and the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) provide financial and emotional support to bereaved spouses and children of troops who have died serving their country.
Watch the National Memorial Day Concert (Sunday, May 27, at 8:00 pm ET on PBS).
This star-studded and award-winning television event is one of the highest-rated programs on PBS, and for good reason. Tune in to your local PBS station on Sunday, May 27, at 8:00 pm ET to see incredible tributes from artists including Leona Lewis, Alfie Boe, the Lt. Dan Band and more. (Click here to see a complete lineup of artists and speakers.)
Fly the American Flag using proper mourning etiquette.
On Memorial Day, fly the flag at half-staff until noon, and raise it again to the peak after noon.
Visit a military memorial, museum, or monument.
There are many military memorials, museums, and monuments throughout the United States. Take a day trip to one near you to learn about our military history or to pay your respects.
Watch the National Memorial Day Parade (Monday, May 28, at 2:00 pm ET)
Launched in 2005 by the American Veterans Center and the World War II Veterans Committee in Washington, D.C., the National Memorial Day Parade has been televised since 2008 and is broadcast live to troops stationed around the world.
The 2018 National Memorial Day Parade will be televised LIVE on local stations nationwide. Check your local listings.
Attend a Memorial Day parade near you.
Check the listings here or contact your local government or news agency to find a Memorial Day parade or ceremony in your area.
Observe the National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 pm local time.
The National Moment of Remembrance, officially recognized since the year 2000 by both a Congressional Resolution and a Presidential Proclamation, designates 3:00 pm local time every Memorial Day as an opportunity to pause in an act of national unity for one minute of silence. Many radio stations observe the moment by playing “Taps.”
Post a tribute to a fallen hero on social media.
Do you have a friend or family member who died during Military Service? Post a picture and a written tribute to them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram—or all of the above! Tell your followers what this person and their service meant to you and invite others to join the conversation by honoring their memory in their own words.
How are you honoring our heroes this Memorial Day weekend? Tell us in the comments below.
GEICO has been a proud supporter of Military members and their families for more than 75 years. To find out more about Military discounts and benefits you could receive as a member of our U.S. Military family, go to geico.com/military or call 1-800-MILITARY.
By K. Bothwell
I dream about a day where we won’t need to protest injustice. I dream of a day where we won’t have to send our brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, parents away from home to serve. I dream of a day when these sacrifices are no longer necessary. But I am thankful. I am thankful for the freedoms that I enjoy. I am thankful for the protections provided. I am thankful for the sacrifice...I support you on this day. Thank you for giving us a voice to speak on injustices. May we lift each other up.