Columnist's Note: I wrote this last year, but it conveys exactly what I would wish to stress today. I could neither add to it, nor take away. The times and places of the services mentioned herein are correct.
That's the approximate number of service men and women the United States has lost in all wars since 1775. It may be more accurate to say, perhaps, that that is the number of Americans who have died in wartime while in uniform. To split hairs for a moment, because I'm detail-orientated, this nation was still a part of Great Britain in 1775, having not yet declared its independence – which wasn't recognized by Great Britain until the war ended anyway. Secondly, that number includes those fallen while wearing the uniform of the Confederate States of America — also not recognized by the parent government it broke away from, though ultimately failing in its own attempt at national sovereignty.
Those facts stated, it's safe to say that 1.3 million Americans have died while in service to their country. It is those Americans who will be honored Monday at a special Memorial Day service at IOOF Cemetery in Neosho. That service begins at 9 a.m. Another Memorial Day service, in Stella, at the veterans memorial there, begins at 10 a.m. I sincerely hope you can make one of those events.
It seems everyone is writing about Memorial Day lately, and I couldn't be happier about that. Honoring military veterans is personally important to me for a myriad of reasons. But, bear in mind, that isn't what is going to happen on Monday. We have a day in November for that. As many people before me have stressed in the past, Memorial Day isn't about honoring our living veterans, it's about paying tribute to those who have died while in service to our country. That is, while in service to us. For us.
No matter the personal reason why each of those who have fallen put on that uniform, their sacrifice remains a cold, hard fact. They are dead. They weren't supposed to die at that time. Most were young and would have probably otherwise lived a long "normal" life that many of us take for granted. I appreciate that for what it is. Military personnel don't typically dwell on the politics of wars. They simply do their duty. And sometimes they die while doing it. For me, that alone is reason enough to pay my respects this Monday.
Wes Franklin serves on the board of directors of the Newton County Historical Society. He is also public relations/events coordinator for the City of Neosho. Call him at 658-8443.