American cemetery north of Verdun, Meuse, France
Photo: Yann Arthus-Bertrand
From a distance the image above is but an abstract pattern, almost like some fabric that would be used for a garment or an adornment. On closer observation, one realizes the objects are stark, white crosses, grave markers, casting their black shadows on green, grass covered graves. A pattern with meaning.
A pattern that comprises just one segment of the final resting place for 14,246 American soldiers who fought on behalf of their country and the allies in World War I. The first world war which was also known as "the war to end all wars" resulted in the deaths of 116,708 Americans, out of 5,696,056 allied deaths and 4,024,397 Central Powers (Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, German Empire; Ottoman Empire) deaths, and 8,869,248 civilian deaths, for a total of 19,772,701dead (military and civilian) and 21,228,813 military wounded after cessation of hostilities with Germany on 11 November 1918 and the Treaty Of Versailles on 28 June 1919.
History, indeed our own experiences through the decades, have taught us that those 116,708 were not the first Americans to give their lives in service to their country, nor have we, if we ever will, seen the last time Americans give their lives for their country. It is truly mind boggling to consider tabulating the numbers of our countrymen who have had their lives ended while serving this country for the past 232 years.
On this Memorial Day, 2008, we remember and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf, whether before our time, or now, during the first eight years of the 21st century, but let us also resolve to never needlessly continue the pattern, let us exert our will upon those who would ask us to make the ultimate sacrifice to do so only as a last resort to protect not our particular political beliefs, not our wealth nor our power, but to protect our fundamental right to learn, thrive and live in peace with all humankind.
Cross posted from BFD Blog!