The town of Milford will be rolling out its annual Memorial Day parade this coming Monday. and continue on East Main Street, stopping for a short ceremony at Calzone Park and continuing up Main Street, concluding at the Draper War Memorial. This year’s Grand Marshal is Lt. Colonel Alfred Abbondanza (Retired), a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Everyone should be there.
I am going to hold my tongue about my opinions of war on this most important holiday. No matter where you stand on military action in the United States, there is never a doubt that the men and women who have served and continue to serve all over the world, are true heroes. Some have returned to us, others have not. Memorial Day, having a moment of silence in their honor and standing respectfully during Taps, is the absolute least we can do as a people to show our gratitude.
We don’t put our hands over our hearts and stand with tears in our eyes because we are obligated, we do it because we are thankful.
It is also not just an extra day off from school. So that they may see some of the faces and connect to the very real history of patriotism in America. It gives them a chance to ask questions and understand that war is a very real, and often heartbreaking sacrifice.
And for us all to reflect. How lucky we are to live in America, a country protected by the best military in the world. How much we appreciate the sacrifice that fathers and mothers, sons and daughters make on our behalf.
I’ve included some statistics in order to bring home that Memorial Day is as relevant today as it was in 1868, when Commander in Chief John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic issued what was called General Order Number 11, designating May 30 as a Memorial Day:
- 6,430 — number of Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn casualties as confirmed by U.S. Central Command (The hyperlink connects to an amazing website with photos and information on these war specific fallen heroes.)
- The Vietnam War's length can be measured in many ways. The formal beginning of U.S. involvement often is dated to Aug. 7, 1964, when Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, giving the president a virtual carte blanche to wage war. By the time the last U.S. ground combat troops were withdrawn in March 1973, the war had lasted 103 months, according to USA Today. There were more than 58,000 casualties, 153,000 wounded and more than 1,600 still missing.
- The Korean War lasted 3 years. In that short time, America lost 37,000 soldiers, 451,000 returned as wounded and more than 8,000 are still listed as POWs or MIAs.
- The average age of a World War II soldier was 26, a Vietnam soldier was 19, and an Iraqi soldier was 30. Disproportionately, Iraq and Afghanistan’s casualties were those younger servicemen and women serving on the front lines. Their average age was 22.
- U.S. forces attacked Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001. We have been at war for nearly 11 years.
- In the spring of 2003, the U.S. and allies invaded Iraq and troops were withdrawn in December 2011, after eight years.
- Recently, the government concluded that 200,000 homeless vets live in the U.S. About 10 percent are either from the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq or Afghanistan, according to Veteran Journal.
- The number of disabled veterans has jumped 25 percent since 2001 — to 2.9 million, according to CBS News. The reason for the jump is both the severity of injuries and the long, multiple tours of duty. Various organizations help disabled veterans. They all accept financial and volunteer help.
- David Emanuel Hickman was the last soldier to die in Iraq. The 23-year-old was killed on Nov. 14, 2011 when an improvised explosive device was detonated. He was just one month away from leaving the war torn country as the final U.S. troops left Iraq.