In a military community, we look at Memorial Day as a way to become better acquainted with those who served, whether their service occurred during World War I or II or the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan or in peacetime.
We are reminded that at any given time, fewer than 1 percent of Americans serve in the armed forces, and 24.3 million Americans who are still alive also put on the uniform. About 25 percent of these men and women are combat veterans.
We did not salute “Happy Memorial Day” on Monday as many businesses and people like to say but rather it was a solemn day in which we paid respects to those who have passed on before us.
During World War I, we lost almost 176,000 servicemen after the United States entered the war in 1917. In ceremonies across the county and one in Fernley at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery, we learned of the hardships the soldiers and sailors experienced a century ago. The number of deaths number increased to 407,000 during World War II. More than 50,000 Americans lost their lives in Korea and Vietnam, more than 4,000 servicemen and women died in Iraq and another 2,200 in Afghanistan.
The first observance to honor the war dead occurred on May 30, 1868, but since 1971, Congress designated the last Monday in May as Memorial Day. The United States was trying to heal itself from four bitter years of fighting during the Civil War where almost a half-million soldiers perished. Three years after the end of the Civil War, the Grand Army of the Republic established what was called Decoration Day in order to give family and friends a time to mourn the deceased and to decorate their graves with flowers.
The first Memorial Day crowd at Arlington National Cemetery drew approximately 5,000 people, the same number attended the ceremony this year. Overall, millions of loved ones and friends attended ceremonies like ours in Fallon and Fernley to pay their respects and to thank them for the freedoms they preserved for which they fought.
During this Memorial Day observance, many people came out to the three local cemeteries and the NNVMC to remember those who have given their lives for this country so that we may our way of life. The LVN continually thanks those who currently serve, whether they’re stationed at Naval Air Station Fallon or attend drills in the Nevada National Guard or Reserves. They, too, have put their lives on the line, ready to deploy overseas and willing to put their lives in harm’s way.
We also thank the men and women of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Fleet Reserve Association and Marine Corps for conducting these ceremonies every year so that we are reminded of the sacrifices from our military men and women.
Editorials written by the LVN Editorial Board appear on Wednesdays.