Saturday, May 26, 2012

When Will They Ever Learn?

When I worked at 2201 C Street, NW, in Washington, D.C., parking was available for the midnight shift in the basement. However, daytime parking was reserved for the Secretary of State, undersecretaries, assistant secretaries, and deputy assistant secretaries and their highest level staffs. Clerical and technical employees like me were on our own. Parking on the street near the State Department guaranteed tickets, booting, and/or towing, an experience you did not want to have a second time. I often parked along the Tidal Basin and walked past the hallowed Lincoln Memorial and between there and the Einstein bronze at the National Academy of Sciences. Eventually, these grounds would be selected for the Vietnam Memorial. Even before the first shovel of dirt was moved or the first wall panel set in place and the first of 58,195 names inscribed, there was a hush that made you pause.

Memorial Day is about young men and women who are sent off to war and never come back. It is not about veterans. It does not celebrate the birth of the country. It is not just an occasion for picnics, stock car races, and double-header baseball games. Originally called Decoration Day, because southern ladies and schoolchildren decorated the graves of fallen Confederate solders, it was later adopted nationwide to remember all Americans who died in all wars.

According to Wikipedia, total United States dead for all wars and military actions from 1775 to the present is 1,529,230. Here are some examples:

Revolutionar War--25,000 dead
War of 1812--19,260 dead
Mexican-American War--13,283 dead
Civil War--624,511 dead
Spanish-American War--2,446 dead
Philippine-American War--4,196 dead
World War I--116,516 dead
World War II--405,399 dead
Korean War--36,516 dead
Vietnam War--58,209 dead
Afghanistan--1,803 dead
Iraq War--4,477 dead.

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