Memorial Day is often welcomed as the unofficial start to summer. Furniture stores and car dealerships hold Memorial Day sales, people attend parties and picnics and enjoy a day off of work. Too often though, the real meaning of the holiday is forgotten.
It’s a day of solemn remembrance in which we pause and reflect upon the sacrifices borne by so many before us. Those sacrifices, after all, are what allow us the freedom to enjoy the parties and picnics and blowout sales — our way of life. It’s a day to pay tribute to those that made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf so that we may live in freedom and enjoy the prosperity that they won.
Wisconsin has paid dearly for that freedom. Since attaining statehood in 1848, Wisconsin has sent more than 775,000 of its sons and daughters to war. Thousands more served in peace time, and more than 24,000 made the ultimate sacrifice.
Of the 91,000 who served in the Civil War, more than 12,000 — some 13 percent — were killed in action or died of wounds or disease. More than 2,000 died in World War I, and another 8,000 died in World War II. The Badger State lost 700 in Korea and 1,200 in Vietnam. The state has lost 124 in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.
Our Wisconsin National Guard has lost 10 Guardsmen in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Today is about honoring these heroic warriors — Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen.
We’ll never be able to replace them. But we can honor them by living lives worthy of their sacrifice and by taking a moment, or a day, or a lifetime remembering their willingness to lay down their lives in defense of our country.
Please take a moment this Memorial Day to remember the sacrifices of our fallen.