It's not just about cookouts with flag-themed paper plates or pulling out the summer white shoes or opening day at the swimming pool or car races or special Memorial Day sales. Here in the U.S. Memorial Day, the last Monday in May, is meant to honor those members of the Armed Forces who died while in military service.
Looking at the list of the many wars and lesser actions the U.S. military has fought in is sobering-- from the approximate 25,000 deaths during the Revolutionary War to the truly horrifying 750,000 some casualties on both sides of the Civil War (still our costliest in terms of lives lost) to the 116,516 of World War I and the 405, 399 of World War II, to the comparatively lower numbers of the Korean 'Conflict' - 36,516, Vietnam -58,209, Iraq- 4,488, and Afghanistan -- 'only' 2,229.
Some signed up to fight for what they believed to be the right thing; some were conscripted and unwilling; some signed up because a judge gave them the choice of enlisting or going to jail; some came from families with a long tradition of service -. so many reasons and often so complicated, but we honor those who died. Some died heroes, in full knowledge of what they were doing; some died before they ever got out of training.
All those lives -- each one a miracle and a little universe of potential, snuffed out. We honor them all -- while wondering why this has to be.