Many Americans look forward to the end of winter and spring with a family vacation over the long Memorial Day weekend. While Memorial Day is seen as a celebratory time signifying the unofficial start of summer, the day actually has a somber meaning. It is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America.
MemorialDay.org reminds us that Memorial Day is one day to remember and honor the 1.8 million that gave their lives for America since 1775. Whether it was on the battlefield or long after from injuries or illnesses, such as mesothelioma, suffered from their service, these military veterans gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Among foreign wars, World War II was the deadliest for the U.S. with 405,399 lives lost. The number of U.S. military personnel killed in the Korean War was 33,686, and in the Vietnam War 58,209. Current U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have claimed 6,882 American lives, according to iCasualties.org.
Some U.S. soldiers have successfully ended their military career only to be stricken with health issues later due to exposure to toxic materials. Many veterans who returned home subsequently died from devastating diseases like mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos. There was wide use of asbestos in military structures and ships between the 1940s and the 1970s. Soldiers were exposed to asbestos in military buildings, including mess halls and barracks. Those who traveled and fought abroad may have been exposed on naval vessels, an area of the military that saw a high demand for asbestos use.
Nearly 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year, and of those, approximately one-third of them are military veterans.
On Memorial Day 2015, at Arlington National Cemetery, President Obama said, in part:
“The Americans who rest beneath these beautiful hills, and in sacred ground across our country and around the world, they are why our nation endures. Each simple stone marker, arranged in perfect military precision, signifies the cost of our blessings. It is a debt we can never fully repay, but it is a debt we will never stop trying to fully repay.
We are so grateful for them. We are so grateful for the families of our fallen. May God bless our fallen heroes and their families, and all who serve. And may He continue to bless the United States of America.”
Americans are asked to make a special effort today to remember those in U.S history who made the ultimate sacrifice. Please join the National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 p.m. (local time) on Memorial Day to pause for one minute, to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all.