Memorial Day

Overlooking Arlington West, 2006

It's Memorial Day here in the US; a time to honor the fallen service men and women from the wars that the US have been involved in. I spent yesterday in Santa Monica at Arlington West, a tribute to the fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan run by the Veterans For Peace organization.

I've never really thought about the number of dead totals from all the US wars. But as I looked at the crosses on the beach yesterday, I started to wonder how many of our soldiers, airman and sailors have lost their lives. The latest official numbers, at least what I could find online, come from a February 2010 report from the Congressional Research Service. From 1775 until the present there have been 848,163 combat related casualties. There have been another 437,421 casualties related to "other" which would include accidents, homicides and suicides.

The Civil War produced the highest number of deaths averaging 599 deaths (combat and other) per day and the lowest amount of deaths happened in the Philippine-American War. The World Wars were very costly in terms of American deaths and together accounted for 521,915 (combat and other) of the overall totals. Vietnam saw 58,151 troops killed and to date, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have seen 4454 and 1598 combat deaths respectively.

These are sobering numbers when taken as a whole. And they don't account for the countries that fought alongside with the US in most of these conflicts. It also doesn't take into account the number of civilians killed during these periods of war. Adding those numbers to the totals would be staggering. And I wonder what the numbers would be for those that returned but were never the same.

Having spent some time in the military myself, and coming from a line of servicemen, today represents something other than a day off from work. I think about the families that have given so much and wish that the wars would end and we would never see another one. It's wishful but I still hope that it will come.