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Since the American Civil War brought the full horror of warfare to American shores, the United States has observed a day late in May as a time of remembrance and reflection for our nation’s war dead. Since then, too many more have joined the hundreds of thousands from that 19th century calamity.
For many of the Millennial Generation, Memorial Day was likely an abstract concept more noted for its significance as the beginning of summer than for the somber roots of the holiday. The tumultuous years of the early millennium that earned that generation its moniker put an end to all that.
Hundreds of thousands of those young men and women were sent overseas to Afghanistan and later Iraq, with more than 6,000 never to return. While not as traumatic on the home front as the wars of yesteryear, it’s difficult for a nation to fight two of its longest wars simultaneously without netting some emotional marks.
Most every graduating class leaving high school had friends and relatives enlisting, and the awareness of how very dangerous and terrifying a modern battlefield can be left no illusions for those soldiers and their loved ones.
These last few years have seen the ferocity of America’s wars fade somewhat both on the battlefield and in the public consciousness.
American forces withdrew from Iraq in December of 2011 and March saw the first month in more than a decade in which no American soldier had been killed in combat. Thankfully, 2011’s military intervention in Libya did not add to the toll of America’s combat deaths.
After the bloody first decade of the new millennium it’s natural that many of us would want to move on and forget, at least as much as possible, the worst of those years. However, we must take this time to remember those who faced the perils of that time and keep the memory of their sacrifices alive.
We must honor their sacrifice by learning from our past and doing better by those who fought beside them and thankfully returned to us.
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