It started as ‘Decoration Day’ in May of 1868, a commemoration where the graves of dead soldiers were graced with flowers.
Major General John A. Logan, a man who served in both the Mexican-American and Civil Wars, stated Decoration Day would be in May because 17across the country, flowers would be in bloom.
In 1971, Memorial Day became a national holiday on the last Monday of May, acknowledging all military personnel who died in American wars.
According to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, battle death totals from wars involving American troops is 657,946. We have 657,946 Americans to thank for the freedoms we enjoy to this day.
Revolutionary War (1775-1783)
4,435 soldiers died during the course of the Revolutionary War, freeing the United States from the grip of Britain. Perhaps one of the most famous icons of the Revolutionary War is the image of Paul Revere riding his horse and shouting “The British are coming!” In actuality, what Revere said was, “The Regulars are coming out.”
War of 1812 (1812-1815)
The War of 1812 doesn’t get much press, but 2,260 men lost their lives. It developed when Britain attempted to keep the Unites States from trading with foreign countries. This war is perhaps best known for “The Star-Spangled Banner” written by Francis Scott Key.
Indian Wars (Approximately 1817-1898)
As the United States migrated west, conflict with Indians arose. The Native Americans were systematically driven from their native lands. The death total of 1,000 is an estimate.
Mexican-American War (1846-1848)
1,733 soldiers lost their lives during this first U.S. war primarily on foreign soil. Perhaps it’s best known for adding Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah to the United States. Many soldiers, including Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant, also served in the Civil War.
Civil War (1861-1865)
During the Civil War, 140,414 Union soldiers and 74,524 Confederate soldiers gave their lives on the battlefield. And those deaths don’t include 224,097 Union soldiers and 59,297 Confederate men who died in theater but not in battle. To this day, Civil War reenactments happen all over the Eastern part of the country.
Spanish-American War (1898)
385 people died during this war with Spain, known for the cry of, “Remember the Maine!” after the battleship that exploded in Havana Harbor. Future president Theodore Roosevelt served in this war.
World War I (1917-1918)
Because of increasing German aggression, the United States entered the war on April 6, 1917. A total of 53,402 soldiers died during the course of the war, which President Woodrow Wilson claimed was “the war to end all wars.”
World War II (1941-1945)
After the vile attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 by Japan, America entered the Second World War. 291,557 soldiers lost their lives, while an additional 670,846 servicemen were injured. World War II has the distinction of being America’s bloodiest war.
Korean War (1950-1953)
What started as a police action by the United States and other nations turned into the Korean War, where 33,739 U.S. servicemen gave their lives for those who lived in South Korea. Though hostilities finally ended, there was never an official peace treaty.
Vietnam War (1964-1975)
The United States deployed almost 3.4 million troops to Southeast Asia in one of the country’s most protested wars. 47,434 men lost their lives in battle, with an added 10,786 deaths in theater. American soldiers returning home were ridiculed and called “baby killers”.
Persian Gulf War (Desert Shield/Desert Storm 1990-1991)
148 men lost their lives as President George H.W. Bush ousted Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Iraq invaded the country in 1990. This war is probably best remembered for the burning oil wells in the desert of Kuwait.
War on Terrorism (2001-Present Day)
The 9/11 attacks will be forever burned into the psyche of America, and President George Bush initiated actions against Afghanistan and Iraq, leading to the death of dictator Saddam Hussein. 6,915 men and women have lost their lives in the fight against terrorism, not to mention the 2,996 deaths and more than 6,000 wounded during the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. This battle continues today, as ISIS continues to threaten freedom around the world.
Animals in War
Besides the loss of human life, we should also take a moment to remember the number of war horses, donkeys, mules, and service dogs who have given their lives in service of their country. It’s estimated that tens of thousands of horses were lost in the Revolutionary War. 1.5 million horses and mules died in the Civil War.
More than 8 million horses, mules, and donkeys gave their lives during World War I and horses were still used sporadically during World War II.
Dogs have served in military battles since the Civil War, and they continue to be used in the War on Terrorism, giving their lives to save others. 118 military dog teams were deployed in Operation Desert Storm. It’s not known how many American War Dogs have sacrificed their lives in American wars.
Though Memorial Day has paced, it’s important to take a moment of silence to remember those soldiers who continue to defend our freedom.