Or should I say, died fighting for our country. Our freedom. Our safety. Our ability to live in comfort.
Memorial Day is on the horizon. Out of curiosity, I googled it.
And I learned that the day used to be called Decoration day and it originated in the years following the civil war —–> the war where we fought each other.
I remembered reading about the amount of lives being lost in the civil war, so I googled that to remind me.
Approximately 620,000 soldiers lost their lives.
To put this into perspective. The combined total of all other American conflicts is around 644,000 (WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Korea, Revolutionary, War of 1812, Mexican War, Iraq-Afghanistan, Spanish American, and Gulf).
Approximately 1,264,000 American soldiers have died.
This led me to learn that the bloodiest battle of the civil war was at Gettysburg (roughly a 4 hour drive from my home) – 51,000 casualties.
Which led me to the remarkable Gettysburg Address. While reading “Team of Rivals” some years back about the rise of Lincoln into presidency and the civil war, I took note of this address. Lincoln was known to be a remarkable speaker. Beyond that, he is a great inspiration to me becuase of his deep humility, approach, character, honesty, and fairness.
The speech is below. It helps to note that the word “score” in Lincoln’s address was a word that meant 20 when talking about years. Thus, when he says “Four score and seven years ago” he is referring to the signing of the Declaration of Independence 87 years (4 score is 4 x 20 + 7) earlier by the Founding Fathers.
The first and last sentences definitely worth a read.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
-Abraham Lincoln | Thursday, November 19, 1863
I have many wonderful things to be thankful for in my life. This weekend being spent with family and friends is one of them.
Ultimately, that came at the great cost of far too many.
There is old greek proverb that I’m reminded of.
“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”
People fought and died 155 years ago for the hot dogs we’ll eat this weekend. That’s a brutal thought.
I know that it’s much more than that. But I emphasize that image to help us all swallow the deep sense of gratitude that it deserves. The Appreciation that is required.
People continue to fight and die today. Or suffer with catastrophic injuries and PTSD.
These people. All of these people. Are my HERO’S.