Monday, May 28, 2007

Touched By War

Many people today do not know that Memorial Day originally began as a Southern tradition of "Decorating" the graves of the Confederate soldiers. In fact the holiday was originally called Decoration Day.

In 1867 Nella L. Sweet wrote a hymn called "Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping" and dedicated it to the women "To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead."

The movement to honor the soldiers who died in war began, not as a big national holiday, but instead as a nearly spontaneous community event to clean and restore cemeteries and decorate the graves of those whose sacrifices gave us the freedoms we have today.

Because it was an unorganized community event, the actual date of celebration varied from January to June, depending on the town or state where the celebration took place.

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

Curiously, after General Logan's proclamation, the South refused to celebrate the "Northern Holiday." Instead each Southern state chose an alternative date as the official Holiday and dedicated it to honor the Confederate dead. Many of these dates are still official holidays in southern states: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi, May 10 in South Carolina, and June 3 (Jefferson Davis' birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.

And we think America is divided today!

But after World War One, Congress expanded the Holiday to honor the dead from all wars, not just the Civil War, and the South quickly came on board and recognized the National Holiday.

Today, the nation is deeply divided by the war in Iraq. A big part of the problem is that this isn't a traditional war, it is an occupation. We are deeply divided by the occupation of another country. A country where a large portion of the population wants us to leave.
And the War Against Terrorism itself is an unconventional war, if it is a war at all. John Edwards insists it's not much more than a slogan, a "bumper sticker."

Bumper Stickers tend to be fads. It's hard to get behind a bumper sticker.

The current conflict, whether it's a war or an occupation, is easily the most reported event in history. Thanks to 24 hour cable news, a robust local pan-Arab news source, al Jazeera, a motivated traditional main stream media and the new media of the blogosphere, including milbloggers, the magnificent Military Bloggers, you can follow this conflict from every perspective.

But, curiously, this "war" has touched very few Americans in the traditional Memorial Day sense. In fact, very, very, very few Americans have died in the conflict. About one thousand American troops have died in the last year.

While even one single death is one too many, consider the relative "personal" impact on American society. At the current death rate, it will take 58 years to reach the number of deaths suffered in the Viet Nam war (58,169)!!

It would take 36 years to reach the number of deaths American soldiers suffered in the Korean War (36,914).

And it would take 407 years to reach just the American military death toll (407,316)of World War Two.
That would actually be twenty generations of continuous occupation.

But, it would take an astonishing 623 years for the death toll to eclipse the horrific devastation on American that we suffered during the Civil War!! Six Hundred Twenty Three Thousand twenty six (623,026) Americans, Northern and Southern combined, were killed in our Civil War, the war that gave birth to Memorial Day.

Would today's media and blogosphere driven society allow 623,026 Americans die in just four short years, no matter how noble the cause? Or even 407,316? Or even 36,914?

And, if not, what would America look like today? Would we still have slavery?
Would Germany have won World War II? Would Korea now be united in slavery, poverty and hunger under Kim Jung Il?

We will be leaving Iraq soon. We'll be gone within two years, probably less. American deaths will undoubtedly exceed 4,000. What will Iraq look like? What will be our legacy?
We will certainly honor those who died. They gave their lives for our country, regardless of the reasons for the war, occupation or our departure.
Source of War Death Statistics: American War Deaths Throughout History
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As we have in years past, Wizard Radio has a big Memorial Day Special, all day, today.
Wizard Radio can be heard on any Internet connection, world wide. There will be several Memorial Day tributes to our soldiers and all those who can before us in building this great nation. Patriotic music and Americana will be woven into a most enjoyable tapestry of eclectic music that is the trademark of Wizard Radio. From Jimmy Buffett to The Beach Boys to New Orleans style jazz, Wizard Radio brings you the perfect soundtrack for the kickoff to summer. I hope you'll join us.


I'm really enjoying browsing at random throughout the blogosphere today reading the many and varied essay and entries about Memorial Day.

I recommend to you a really short "Reader's Digest" size entry I think you will all appreciate. Neil has written about the
442nd Regiment from World War Two. This regiment was made virtually entirely of Japanese Americans and emerged as the most decorated Regiment in the entire war.

They fought in Europe. The Army "didn't trust them" to fight in the Pacific!!!

Read it! And have a thoughtful, but thoroughly enjoyable Memorial Day.

1 comment:

Vigilante said...

What a classy gem of an article. I had to click on Wizard Radio, to just check it out!