Memorial Day: A Bittersweet Reminder

Memorial Day was borne out of the Civil War and a desire to honor our dead. It Happy-Memorial-Daywas 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. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed. (memorialday.org)

How tragic that Memorial Day had its beginnings in the most devastating war the United States has ever fought. The Civil War was the bloodiest war ever fought. More than 500,000 Americans killed one another—compared to 4400 in the Revolutionary War, 2200 in the War of 1812, and 1700 in the Mexican War. The Civil War engaged more than 3 million soldiers. Even when you compare the number of deaths in WWII to the Civil War, considering that WWII involved 16+million soldiers, the casualties of the Civil War outnumber WWII by 100,000. It was a deadly war.

It was a costly war. The gross national product is the total market value of all the goods and services produced by a nation during a specified period. Again the Revolutionary War cost 10% of the GNP, the War of 1812 14%, and the Mexican War, 4%. Are you ready for this? The Civil War cost 199% of the gross national product. It was a costly war.

Memorial Day is a bittersweet reminder. We remember the men and women who have given their lives for our country in its relatively brief 240 year history. And we are reminded that the first celebration of Memorial Day followed a war that we fought against one another.Today we will decorate soldiers’ graves, fly the American flag and gather with family and friends for hamburgers and hotdogs. As we do, let the words of our pledge to the flag ring through our minds: one nation under God.

One nation under God does not fight against itself–God is about unity. One nation under God does not fight over the right to own slaves–God is about freedom.

Thank you to every man and woman who fought (and are fighting) to make this nation great. Today we remember you. Thank you God for making this nation great. Today we remember you.