Thank You for Your Service to America

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2017
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD
The Face of America Project
www.faceofamericawps.com

These fallen heroes represent the character of a nation who has a long history of patriotism and honor – and a nation who has fought many battles to keep our country free from threats of terror. Michael N. Castle 

Perspective

In the lifetime of our country, more than 1.3 million soldiers gave their lives for America. More than 1.4 million soldiers were wounded defending American values and more than 40,000 went missing in action.

In World War II, fought between 1941-1945, we lost 297 Americans every day of the war.

In World War I, fought between 1917-1918, we lost 279 Americans every day of the war.

In Korea, fought between 1950-1953, we lost 45 Americans every day of the war.

In Vietnam, fought between 1967-1975, we lost 11 Americans every day of the war.

The Father of Memorial Day

We owe a debt of gratitude to Major General John A. Logan, a Civil War general who in 1868 established a tradition commonly known as Decoration Day. At the time, General Logan was commander-in-chief of the Union veterans’ group known as the Grand Army of the Republic.

He encouraged Americans to visit cemeteries and decorate the graves of the 620,000 soldiers who died in the Civil War, the deadliest of all American wars.

He described it with these words:

(It) is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

During World War I, Decoration Day was expanded to include the fallen of all wars.

Memorial Day did not become a federal holiday until 1971.

The Teacher-in-Chief

I have been thinking a lot about this novel concept of the President of the United States as the Teacher-in-Chief. So I thought it might be helpful to include a few pearls of wisdom from Presidents who had something encouraging and insightful about the men and women we celebrate on Memorial Day:

In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved. Franklin D. Roosevelt

We owe our eternal gratitude to the 2.7 million Americans who gave their lives or were seriously injured in America’s wars.

America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination, and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand. Harry S. Truman

I watched Tom Brokaw’s documentary The Greatest Generation. During the program he made these two points:

When the war ended, more than twelve million men and women put their uniforms aside and returned to civilian life. They went back to work at their old jobs or started small businesses; they became big-city cops and firemen; they finished their degrees or enrolled in college for the first time; they became schoolteachers…

A common lament of the World War II generation is the absence today of personal responsibility.

President Ronald Reagan offered these touching thoughts at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day in 1986:

Today is the day we put aside to remember fallen heroes and to pray that no heroes will ever have to die for us again. It’s a day of thanks for the valor of others, a day to remember the splendor of America and those of her children who rest in this cemetery and others. It’s a day to be with the family and remember.

In the CBS news the story of The Lost Platoon of the Vietnam War, Kenny Barker, shared this profound thought with John Blackstone:

Be the best you can be every day, because you can’t let 22 people down.

Blackstone characterized this as “survivor’s obligation.”

Summary

I can think of no better way to end this tribute to the fallen, their courage, their determination, their service, their discipline, and their heroism than to include the words of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper as recorded in her poem God Bless Our Native Land:

God bless our native land,

Land of the newly free,
Oh may she ever stand
For truth and liberty.

God bless our native land,
Where sleep our kindred dead,
Let peace at thy command
Above their graves be shed.

God help our native land,
Bring surcease to her strife,
And shower from thy hand
A more abundant life.

God bless our native land,
Her homes and children bless,
Oh may she ever stand,
For truth and righteousness.

Thank you for your service to America, God bless you.

Pictures in this article are part of Library of Congress collection. Photographer Carol M. Highsmith took some of the pictures.

U.S. military casualties of war were obtained from an extensive report published on Wikipedia.org.

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tony.mussari@gmail.com