Column: Honoring those who gave all
Since the start of the American Revolutionary War, more than 1.1 million men and women in the military have given their lives in service to this country. That is just shy of the entire force strength of current active duty troops. The gravity of that number is immense, and it is a striking reminder of the sacrifices our armed servicemembers make when they swear the oath to the Constitution. The United States has understood the meaning of volunteerism in times of conflict since the beginning, but perhaps the most significant call to arms in recent history came during World War II.
I recently attended a ceremony in Washington honoring the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. I met six veterans there who lived to tell the tales of the events from that fateful day. Some of these survivors famously stormed the beaches of France against a daunting enemy. I was incredibly humbled knowing that each of these men, some of whom weren't old enough to vote, demonstrated incredible bravery when the nation depended on it. When they took to the air, land and sea on June 6, 1944, they did so with the knowledge that they, and many of their brothers-in-arms may never return home.
In a speech at the ceremony, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, Gen. Mark A. Milley, stressed the pain and suffering of war, specifically during the Normandy landings. He mentioned how on the very first day of the invasion, nearly 2,500 Americans were killed. By early August, the American forces continued to sustain substantial losses as they drove deeper into France. The D-Day invasion and the ensuing campaign was a major turning point of the war, and epitomizes American military heroism.
Today, Normandy remains the final resting place for 9,380 Americans with thousands more returned to the U.S. or never accounted for. At the end of WWII, more than 407,000 Americans were killed, and 671,000 were wounded, but even that disparaging number of casualties has not stopped the willingness of men and women to continue serving. Conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East, and other areas around the globe have continued to highlight the courageous spirit of American servicemembers.
General Milley reminded the audience that following the aftermath of WWII, the world has not since seen the devastation of another major-power, global conflict. He emphasized how fortunate this is, and how such a conflict would have unimaginable costs and should be prevented in every way possible.
Since WWII, the U.S. has focused on building and maintaining strategic alliances with countries around the world. It is through those strong partnerships that we, along with our allies, have been able to promote and support the democratic values and freedoms we proudly embrace. To preserve global stability and peace, it is so important that we continue to keep these alliances strong, utilize our diplomatic channels in times of crisis, and have a well-equipped, modern and prepared military at the ready.
Memorial Day serves as an opportunity for families and friends to gather together and enjoy the start of summer, but more than that it is a somber day to honor those we have lost and remember the terrible cost of war. Please join me in taking time to pray for the safety of those who serve, and honor those who have gone before us defending the very freedoms we enjoy this weekend.