Take time from the fun to remember the meaning of Memorial Day
May 22, 2015
Let’s be honest. Most Parkites are looking forward to celebrating the coming three-day weekend with relatively self-indulgent activities: cycling and hiking if the sun comes out, shopping or going to the gym if it stays cold and rainy, etc. But, on Monday, we hope many will also take time to pay their respects to the American servicemen and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving their country.
Even today, the roster of American soldiers who have died in combat continues to grow. Despite veterans who believed they had fought ‘the war to end all wars,’ and despite repeated presidential promises ‘to bring our soldiers home,’ conflicts continue to claim mothers and fathers, sons and daughters. The tally of American casualties in Iraq has topped 4,400 and in Afghanistan, a war that was supposed to have ended last year, the number is 2,356 and the region is still not stable.
Summit County has been extraordinarily fortunate. While other Utah families have lost loved ones in those conflicts, it has been many years since this paper had to cover the funeral of a local warrior. Nevertheless, we owe many of the freedoms we enjoy today to the sacrifices of families across the country.
There are plenty of grim statistics to consider when it comes to combat. World War I claimed more than 116,500 American soldiers. Another 405,400 died after the U.S. was forced back into battle on behalf of the Allies in World War II and the heartbreak returned as the nation mourned the 58,000 lost in Vietnam. Some of those were born and raised in Summit County and their graves will be decorated on Monday.
Those numbers pale in comparison, though, to the losses suffered in other countries, by both Allies and enemies. During WWII, Germany lost 3.5 million soldiers and Japan lost 2 million. In Russia, an unimaginable number, 10 million soldiers, never returned home. In Europe, hillsides covered with graves are a constant reminder of their war dead. France, for instance, lost 250,000, a quarter of a million. And none of those statistics include civilians.
It is important and fitting that we set aside a national holiday to pay homage to both the brave citizens who fought to protect our country and its ideals, and to consider the true costs of war. And it is also OK to enjoy the bounties of our beautiful and active community. But let’s not forget the price that has been paid to ensure we have the freedom to enjoy them.