My Fellow Missourians:
Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Major General John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.
The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. The ceremonies centered around the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Various Washington officials, including General and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies. After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.
It is imperative to pay tribute this upcoming Memorial “Decoration” Day for all of our fallen countrymen that paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our homeland and uphold the Constitution and our freedom. Take time to pause and reflect on the following statistics provided from USA Today listing the casualties from each U.S. war:
Civil War: Approximately 620,000 Americans died. The Union lost almost 365,000 troops and the Confederacy about 260,000.
World War I: 116,516 Americans died.
World War II: 405,399 Americans died.
Korean War: 36,574 Americans died.
Vietnam Conflict: 58,220 Americans died.
Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm: 148 U.S. battle deaths and 145 non-battle deaths.
Operation Iraqi Freedom: 4,422 U.S. service members died.
Operation New Dawn: 66 U.S. service members died.
Operation Enduring Freedom: 2,318 U.S. service members have died as of May 12, 2014.
“We live in the land of the Free, because of the Brave.” It sounds cliché, but it is so true. Now, and always, let us honor our guardians of liberty for their diligence and sacrifice.
We commemorate this day to remember all those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice for our great nation. As one of our greatest Missourians, President Harry Truman, once said, “Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.”