Although the act of giving thanks is traditionally associated with Thanksgiving, it would also be very appropriate to do so on Memorial Day, a holiday designated to remember those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces and made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy today. A great way to honor them is to attend one of the many Memorial Day parades and events that are being held this Monday.
The holiday, which is widely considered the kickoff to the festive summer season, is actually a very somber one. And this year there are two very significant anniversaries to remember: the 100th anniversary marking the end of WWI and the 75th anniversary of the D-Day battle of WWII, which was said to have accelerated the end of the war the following year.
D-Day, June 6, 1944, was the beginning of the Battle of Normandy, France, which lasted until that August. On D-Day, an onslaught of American, British and Canadian troops that were part of what was called Operation Overlord landed on the 50-mile stretch of beach to face German soldiers and artillery in one of the bloodiest recorded battles in history. Although the numbers are not exact, it is estimated that there were well over 400,000 allied and German casualties. Many of those who fell remain buried in military cemeteries in Normandy
WWI took place from Aug. 1, 1914 to Nov. 11, 1919. The U.S. entered the conflict in April 1917. There were 116,708 Americans killed in that war and 204,400 were wounded. Referred to by then-President Woodrow Wilson as the “war to end all wars,” many of those who fought were parents to the veterans who served in WWII.
There are currently no living veterans of the First World War. As of 2018, there were 496,777 veterans of WWII alive of the 16 million who fought. However, since they are now in their 80s and 90s, that number changes exponentially with each passing day.
To them, and the many members of our nation’s Armed Forces who have since and continue to serve in battle, Memorial Day has meaning beyond what most of us (thankfully) can comprehend. We cannot forget any of them.
So, next Monday, before you head to the picnic or the beach, take some time to attend a Memorial Day parade or service as a special thank you to all those who serve, and especially those who never returned home. It’s certainly no sacrifice compared to theirs.