Honor Memorial Day By Paying Respect To Our Greatest Heroes

It's unfortunate that many Americans do not go to cemeteries and pay respect to our greatest heroes on Memorial Day. Instead, many people head for the beaches to take advantage of the long weekend and consider this holiday a party time, and every year many people die in automobile accidents while driving drunk.

Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day because it was a time set aside to honor the nation's Civil War dead by decorating their graves. It was first widely observed on May 30,1868, to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former sailors and soldiers. On May 5, 1868, Logan declared in General Order No. 11 that:

The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

During the first celebration of Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.

This 1868 celebration was inspired by local observances of the day in several towns throughout America that had taken place in the three years since the Civil War. In fact, several Northern and Southern cities claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, including Columbus, Mississippi; Macon, Georgia; Richmond, Virginia; Boalsburg, Pennsylvania; and Carbondale, Illinois.

In 1966, the federal government, under the direction of President Lyndon Johnson, declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. They chose Waterloo—which had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866—because the town had made Memorial Day an annual, community-wide event during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

By the late 1800s, many communities across the country had begun to celebrate Memorial Day and, after World War I, observances also began to honor those who had died in all of America's wars. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May. (Veterans Day, a day set aside to honor all veterans, living and dead, is celebrated each year on November 11.)

Today, Memorial Day is celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave. Also, it is customary for the president or vice-president to give a speech honoring the contributions of the dead and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. About 5,000 people attend the ceremony annually.

Several Southern states continue to set aside a special day for honoring the Confederate dead, which is usually called Confederate Memorial Day.

For hundreds of years the world has paid a big price maintaining freedom, and many times deaths occurred while fighting each other. Many human beings died much too early and many times for unjust causes.

Since Memorial Day, 2004, more than a thousand young American military men and women have been killed in Iraq.  As I write my thoughts, more are being killed or wounded.

Wars should only be fought after ALL other methods fail. We should never be trigger-happy. Most disagreement can be settled with communication and compromise.

We cannot bring our dead comrades back to life, but we can pray for their families that they left behind while they were fighting and dying to preserve our freedom.

When an American dies on the battlefield, I die a little bit, too.

I've seen my share of buddies die and often wondered when it was my time. Each and every night I have nightmares of these bloody battles of war.

Military and Civilian War Related Deaths Through the Ages Derived from Official and Multiple Reference Sources

Combat losses are difficult to fully ascertain in many cases. Some countries kept excellent records and some none at all. Some countries include people who died of combat wounds years after they were inflicted some do not count them.

Historians like original source documents: after action combat reports filled out by unit commanders, ration requests, orders for weapons and other such documents. However, you must keep the time period in which these documents were created. What could be valid in one time period in history where 1 weapon ordered was the same as 1 person in the ranks while in other times 500 items could be ordered but they went to both field personnel and into stock in various places but only 50 actual soldiers in the field ever got them. Sometimes these equipment and food ration records give accurate records of personnel before and after an engagement.

This is not designed to be an exhaustive inclusive list of all wars. Record keeping of figures is good from the 1200s onward for European nations. Prior to that valid records are spotty. Roman era records as well as Greek records in some cases can be verified. Most have to be calculated estimates within valid realms of probability. Some Chinese record keeping go back a lot further are also good. Modern Chinese records are hard to establish due to the many changes of governments that have occurred in China over the past 150 years. Records for other locations on Terra Firma is almost nonexistent prior to a European arrival.

Civilian casualty figures for most wars are impossible to verify. Most historians and governments guessed at them. Some guess due in part that the records of the people living in an area were themselves destroyed, and sometimes they were never counted to hide the true losses from their own people as to the number killed as well as to keep those numbers from enemy.

Coming up with accurate numbers for KIA — Killed in Action; WIA — Wounded in Action; DOW— Died Of Wounds; MIA — Missing in Action; POW — Prisoner Of War varies widely by country. With the creation of paid standing armies it becomes much easier to find these things out — since pay records exist. When money is paid to individual soldiers then records tend to be more accurate.

Finding those paper records can still be difficult with the passage of time. Secondary sources from church records, tax rolls, emigration records and others sources that tend to identify individuals can fill in the gap if enough data can be collected to form a statistically valid sample.

Events that caused the most casualties:

As of April 29, 2005

Spain ran away under a new government after the Madrid bombings by terrorists. No Queen Isabella there anymore.

More Iraqis have died as a result of insurgent bombings, revenge killings, than killed by US military during the invasion. True number of Iraqis killed by terrorists has not been published that I know of.

Operation Telic is the name given by the British Killed during the Actual War

There were 137 US Soldiers actually killed during the fight to Baghdad. The rest were killed while trying to re-establish an Iraqi government that US, UN, French, German and even the Iraqis would like to see run their country. i.e.: Trying to replace the destroyed (mainly by Iraqi looters) power stations, fuel lines, telephones and get a functioning government and police force up to a point so that the Allied military forces who attacked Iraq could be withdrawn.

Avoiding Military Duty

In the US there were an estimated 200,000 Conscious Objectors during the Vietnam War, 4,300 in the Korean War, 37,000 in World War II, and 3,500 in World War I. 16.1 million people served on active duty in World War II. From the upward count it has become quite popular to avoid serving in the armed forces in the last 50 years in the US. From what I have read this is true in all democratic counties where you have a choice to serve or not.

During the US Civil War you could pay someone to serve in your place. This came about due to the implementation of a levy (in essence a state draft) being instituted in 1863 and 1864. If your name was pulled to serve, and you had enough money, you could have someone else serve in your place. Going price was usually around $350.


Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lakes, from the hills, from the skies,
All is well, safely rest.
God is night.

Then good night, peaceful night,
Till the light of the dawn shineth bright,
God is near, do not fear
Friend, good night.

Composed By Major General Daniel Butterfield
Army of the Potomac, Civil War

This bugle call was written during the Peninsula Campaign of the Civil War in the year 1862 after a battle near Richmond, Virginia which saw a large number of Union causualties. It is said that the tune came to then Brigade Commander Colonel Daniel Butterfield, while reflecting sadly on the losses.

According to the story, Butterfield unable to write music, hummed it to his aide who wrote it down in musical notation. It was performed that evening by his bugler, Oliver W. Norton in honor of fallen comrades. In 1874, it became officially recognized by the U.S. Army as an alternative
to "Lights Out" and since has been used not only a signal that day was done, but also as means of saying good-bye to a fallen comrade, usually accompanied by the drumbeat, Muffled Ruffles.

It is customarily played at military funerals across the land.

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(Archive - Week of May 28, 2005)

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