As a Vietnam combat Vet who spent 30 years in the Army (and was in Afghanistan as a civilian last year), I honor ALL Veterans but this Memorial Day 2012 I will especially remember those from the wars where we still have living Veterans and especially from World War II.
In the almost 11 years we’ve been in Afghanistan (Oct 2001-Today/24 May 2012), we’ve lost 1964 military killed from all causes in country and the surrounding regions (1360 Soldiers, 402 Marines, 96 Airmen and 106 Sailors).
In the 9+ years we were in Iraq (Mar 2003-until our withdrawal), we lost 4478 military killed from all causes in country and the surrounding regions (3294 Soldiers, 1022 Marines, 57 Airmen, 104 Sailors and 1 Coast Guardsmen).
Between Vietnam and our present wars, our military also saw combat in Grenada (total lost from all causes = 19), Panama (24), The Gulf War (293).
The Vietnam War lasted 10 years but 51,585 of the total 58,220 killed occurred during the real 5 years (1966-70) of the war when we were heavily engaged (at the height of that war in 1968 we were losing 50+ a day killed and in May 1968 alone we had 2416 Killed!)
The Korean War lasted 3 years and one month (Jun 1950 – Jul 53) and total US Killed was 36,516 (that averages ~32+ killed a day).
All these conflict pale in comparison to World War II where the US lost almost half a million men. The Battle of the Bulge alone lasted 40 days (16 Dec 44 – 25 Jan 45) with almost 90,000 U.S. casualties; 19,000 killed, 47,500 wounded, and 23,000 captured or missing. The 36-day Iwo Jima assault resulted in more than 26,000 American casualties, including 6,800 dead while the 82-day Battle for Okinawa lasted from early April until mid-June 1945 and U.S. (5 Army and 2 Marine Corps Divisions) casualties were over 62,000 with over 12,000 killed.
To me, the real heroes of WWII were the men of the 8th Air Force (one of 16 numbered Air Forces in the War). The 8th AF sustained more than 27,000 killed; that’s more than the entire Marine Corps (24,500) lost in that war. I will never understand how men had the courage to board those bombers day after day knowing they would often sustain 40-50% casualties on a single mission.
Honor ALL Veterans but reserve a special place for the Heroes from World War II!