Imagine a filled bubblegum dispenser, a big glass globe replete with colorful gumballs crowding the edges and filling to the top. Imagine each of these represent at thing to do. Imagine that you are holding the great glass globe in your outstretched hands.
Now imagine the glass disappears and gravity does its thing. That’s a bit how I feel right now; I’ve decided May is the month of mania. Work is hectic, school is hectic, life is hectic. Enter a 3-day weekend, to give some respite.
As very little gets done on the home front during the week, all of the home front to-do’s get crammed into the weekend. Usually there’s some spillover into Monday, kicking off an already frenetic week with additional to-do’s. So it’s nice to have the catch up Monday.
At a cost.
Memorial Day is the day we reserve for those who went into uniform and never got out of it; the men and women who went to war and never came home (or at least not alive). (Veteran’s Day is for those who are remembered at Memorial Day *and* those who got to come home, in whole or in part).
Did you know that at 3pm local time you’re supposed to take a moment and remember those who died? I knew the whole day was reserved, and that there are parades and postings. I knew about visiting graveyards (which is something I like to do anyway) and the pinning of poppies; I didn’t know there was a special time.
I do know a lot of people died*:
- 620,000 soldiers died in the US Civil War (Memorial Day was started shortly after as Decoration Day)
- 10.8 million soldiers in World War I (add in another 8 million or so civilians)
- 21 to 25 million soldiers in World War II (estimates vary) (with up to 28 million civilians)
- 600 thousand in Korea (another 600 thousand civilians)
- 1.8 million in Vietnam (note: not including civilian deaths, which pushes it up to 2.5 million)
In more recent wars (the Gulf War, the Afghanistan War (still going!), the Iraq War (still going!), the tallies seem to muddle. Accounts and numbers vary depending on the resource. It’s notable that the more “sophisticated” we are and the more precise we’ve become, the less specific and discrete we get in how we count the dead.
As we see the increased attention to Iran and the “will we/won’t we” hype machine spin up, and as we review the meaning of this day, it would be as well to get clear about our accounting, and the very real ways we all pay.
Speaking of currency, if you’re interested in donating to a worthwhile charity, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Foundation is highly ranked on Charity Navigator and supports veterans and their families in active duty and beyond.
*Yep, I know this is US-Centric. Mainly it covers what our kids are taught in our schools, such as that is. I graduated in 1991 and my World and US history books only had a paragraph about the Vietnam War, which had ended when I was born in ’73.