Memorial Day is a unique holiday – a day of celebration conceived to honor the dead and, specifically, death on the battlefield during times of war. By that measure, it is a holiday that commands – demands – our attention, respect and reflection.
In the 246 years since the War for Independence began, Americans have been called to combat nearly 80 times – that’s once every three years. Our nation’s involvement in wars is sometimes thrust upon us and sometimes comes at our own instigation, but we cannot escape the fact that the price of American citizenship is, for some, military service that can bring those citizens into harm’s way.
It is impossible to say with certainty exactly how many members of the United States armed forces have given their lives in all of these engagements, but the best estimate is that more than 666,000 American soldiers, sailors and aviators have died in combat. The largest number of deaths occurred in five cataclysmic and historic conflicts: the American Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and more recently, the more than 4,000 who gave their lives during the eight-year war in Iraq and the 1,800 who have died during the still-unfinished 20-year battle with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
No generation of Americans has been spared the scourge of war, but it is safe to say that all who have worn the uniform understood that they were being called on, first to create a nation and later to protect its people and preserve a country with unique commitments to individual freedom, civil liberties and representative democracy. Those are laudable ends, historic achievements, wondrous endowments and grand gifts to a society and its citizenry that are so precious and cherished that they can be worthy of the ultimate sacrifice.
This is also a special year to be celebrating Memorial Day because the 666,000 Americans who have died on the battlefield over the past 246 years have now been followed to the grave, in just 15 months, by 592,000 people who have fallen victim to the second worst pandemic in American history. Some of those victims were first responders – emergency medical technicians, doctors, nurses, police, firefighters and other civilians who placed their own lives at risk to help aid those infected by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. These valiant warriors were not engaged in a battle with a foreign or domestic enemy, but instead, confronting an uncaring and invisible virus wreaking misery and disease on millions of their countrymen. So in this year of Covid-19, we should manifest a benevolent spirit and expand our Memorial Day remembrance to encompass all those, both civilian and military, who have given their lives to make this a better and safer country for all of us. In honoring all who have made this sacrifice, it is worth remembering the words of Jesus, who told his disciples: “Greater love hath no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)
The lawyers and staff of Aerlex Law Group join all of our friends, clients and aviation industry colleagues in celebrating Memorial Day and the unofficial beginning of a summer that our entire nation is waiting to embrace with joy, gusto and relief. Enjoy the time off, have fun, but remember the patriotic foundations of the holiday. Make time, if you can, to attend one of the ceremonies that will be held at local cemeteries to honor the day and decorate the graves of veterans who have passed on. But however you choose to observe Memorial Day, we humbly beseech you to take at least a few moments to say a grateful prayer of thanksgiving for the brave servicemen and women who paid the ultimate price for your freedom and the unique and wonderful country they have bequeathed to you. It is a privilege to be an American – and it is a privilege to celebrate Memorial Day.
President and Founder
Aerlex Law Group