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Remember?

June 6, 2020

We do live in troubling times when it seems that the calm sharing of differing viewpoints has been replaced with strident calls of revolution when it makes you wonder what folks are revolting against and what they would replace our current system with.  Yes, there is much in America that needs changing, but you again ask yourself, organizations that are rioting in the streets today over the horrific death of one man (but overlooking the deaths that occur both during their so-called demonstrations and those who are murdered daily in crimes that stain our communities); what do they think they will accomplish with their chants of ‘no justice, no peace?

In this present time, it is vitally important to remember from where we have come, the strides we have taken  to overcome our own evil natures, and the price paid by those who have come before us.  Throughout our nation’s history, there have been voices that cry out to remember the principals upon which our country was founded and how from the very start we were meant to be a people without limitations placed on our God-given “…rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…” as the Declaration of Independence puts it.  Our forefathers came to this land seeking a place without constraints on religion, on personal freedoms, and the desire to better self without being held back by reason of birth or social class.  They fought, bled, and died securing our new nation; the blood of free men continues to be shed to keep us free.

According to the American Battlefield Trust, around 230,000 proto-Americans fought in the Continental Army, though never more than 48,000 at a time. The colonial militias mustered up another 145,000. With a death toll of around 6,800, the chances of dying in combat in the Revolutionary War were roughly 1.8%.

During the War of 1812, or “Mr. Madison’s War,” as it was derisively called in New England, the U.S. Army had 35,000 men at its peak, with another 458,000 militiamen throughout the nascent United States, not all of whom were called up to fight. Some 15,000 Americans died as a result of the War of 1812. But only around 2,260 deaths were due to the fighting. The rest were from disease.

In the Mexican-American War, the number would be staggering if you had no idea that diseases and other non-combat mishaps killed 11,550 more, a stunning 14.67%. Before the Civil War, diseases were more effective at killing American troops than the enemy was. The total death rate in Mexico was 16.9%, which would have been memorable if not for what came in the next war.

A rough estimate from the American Battlefield Trust puts the number of Americans killed in the Civil War at around 650,000. The VA estimates around 2.2 million Union combatants. When combined with the Confederate combatants, the number of Americans who fought the war reaches 3.26 million.  With these numbers, the overall likelihood of fighting and dying in combat was 6.6%, around the same likelihood of fighting and dying in the Union Army. The chances of dying in combat in the Confederate Army was around 7%. In all, including non-combat deaths like disease, the chances of dying as a soldier or sailor in the Civil War was 18.9% — still the largest death rate in U.S. military history.

Throughout the early history of the United States, the U.S. Army worked to support “Manifest Destiny” and westward expansion. The VA estimates some 106,000 American troops fought to “tame the West” and at least 1,000 died doing it, giving the combined wars with Native American tribes a death rate of 0.94%.

The total number of American service members who fought in the Spanish-American War hovered around 306,700, with only 385 dying in combat. Only 0.12% of those who fought in the war were killed by the Spanish.

If the Spanish-American War showcased the U.S. military operating at high efficiency, then World War I was the beginning of the end of that. With 4.73 million men in uniform, World War I saw Americans mobilize like never before. Around 2.5% of those Doughboys would not make it home, as 53,402 fell to the enemy and another 63,114 to other causes.  So a Great War-era soldier was almost as likely to perish due to trench foot or Spanish Flu as to a German bullet.

World War 2, which saw more than 16 million Americans don a uniform and completely reshaped American society, actually had a lower proportional combat death toll than the Civil War.  Only 1.8% of the 16,112,556 Americans who served in combat died at the hands of the enemy, a combat death likelihood roughly on par with World War I. According to the National World War II Museum, for every 1,000 Americans who served in the war, 8.6 were killed in action, three died from other causes, and 17.7 received non-fatal combat wounds. 

During the Korean War, for war it was,around 2% of the 1.79 million who served in Korea would never come home. The Defense Department states that 36,574 Americans died fighting in the Korean War theater and a total of 54,246 died as a result of the war (the total has been reduced slightly over time).  While this is the current tally, the number of Korean War-era deaths has changed slightly over the years. A 2000 CBS News report found the DoD had been slowly changing the number of combat deaths and Korean War-related deaths over the ensuing decades. At the end of the war, the tally was 54,260, which combined 33,643 combat deaths with 20,617 “other deaths.”

The chances of dying skyrocketed for participants of the Korean War’s famous battles. Of the 30,000 U.S. troops in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, for example, just under 6,000 were killed or went missing, a 19.75% loss.

As of November 2019, there are now 33,739 reported combat deaths in theater, 2,835 non-combat deaths in theater and another 17,672 non-combat deaths outside the Korean War. If the Korean War had lasted as long as the Vietnam War, the death toll would have climbed to 168,630 — more than World War I.

The number of Americans fighting in Vietnam nearly doubled, up to 3.4 million, from the number in Korea. But the number of troops killed in the war grew by only 62% — and that was over the span of 14 years, starting from when President John F. Kennedy ramped up U.S. involvement in 1961, compared to the three years of fighting in Korea.  More than 58,220 American troops died during the course of the Vietnam War, for a death rate of about 1.7%. Despite the prolonged fighting, improvements in battlefield medicine and the mobility of helicopters helped save many lives.

The Gulf War of 1990-1991 saw a force of 694,550 American troops in service or deployed in support of the war. Of those, only 383 were killed, for a death rate of 0.1%, according to the VA in November 2019.

The success of American battlefield medicine and operational risk management continues through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the most- current analysis of casualties from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, updated May 2020, 2.5 million American troops deployed in support of Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn. Of those, 5,364 died in action, and another 1,476 died in non-hostile incidents.

As of 2017, an estimated 624,000 American veterans were dying every year, most from natural causes. A study from the National Institutes of Health estimates that half of the men who die every day are veterans. As we remember America’s fallen troops on Memorial Day, we might also stop by and visit those who fought past wars and listen to the memories of their fallen comrades in arms — they may not be around come Veterans Day.

Reading through this list and knowing how many have died (and continue to offer the “…last full measure…” as President Abraham Lincoln coined it), how can we not, but remember how precious the freedoms we have today are?  But do we?

When I remember growing up in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, it is readily apparent that we have come a long way.  When compared with other nations, especially, we see a marked difference in how our society does indeed face problems and seek to address them.  Martin Luther King, taking a cue from Scripture and Mahatma Gandhi, led the Civil Rights Movement in passive, non-violent protest whose effect was to awaken the conscience of America to the very real poison that was systemic racism within the heart of the nation.  As with Gandhi and his followers, through their willingness to face whatever oppression and physical attacks those protecting the ‘old ways,’ they focused attention on how peaceful demonstration in the face of such vilification and suffering.  Laws were enacted to reverse (to some extent) this evil and, while the hearts of far too many refused to accept this change, society as a whole began to move in a new direction foreseen by our founding fathers.

Is everything all ‘sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows’ today?  Not hardly and such will never be achieved until Messiah rules on Earth as He is in Heaven.  But there is a difference today that many thought to see when I was a small lad I who wanted to see the inside of the “Colored” men’s room in a busy bus station in Chicago.  When I entered that place, I stood aghast at the lack of anything that could be called ‘pretty’ and was wondering why it was called “Colored” when the only color I could see was a muddy brown stain everywhere.  Then I heard a gentle voice asking me, “Little boy, what you doing in here?”  I turned to look at an older gentleman who was black, standing between me and the door (he’d obviously just come in).  Keeping in mind this all happened almost 67 years ago, and there is no memory of my being afraid of him, just a curiosity of why this bathroom was different from the ones I was accustomed to.  I told him that I wanted to see this one because it was ‘colored’ while the other was only ‘white’ thinking that this one would be prettier.  He laughed and told me that I would probably be better going to the ‘white’ bathroom.  Still curious, I asked him why there were two separate bathrooms and that this one was so different.  He smiled, placed a hand on my head, and said, “Little man, maybe you will be part of what changes things.”

In the book (and movie, the book being much better) Missing Figures, this disparity in how our fellow Americans were treated was brought out quite well.  Again, having lived through this time and witnessing first-hand how much we have changed, I am shocked at the current state of affairs in America.  Do we not remember the price that has been paid, not only by our soldiers, sailors, and airmen but also by those who were murdered (many who just went ‘missing’ and whose story was never told) throughout our history (one such event was the subject of the movie, Wilmington on Fire

Yes, we can and MUST do better for all Americans to protect our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Violence in the manner of these so-called ‘revolutionaries’ is NOT the answer and will only play into the hands of those who object to equal standing in the law.  We ALL are “…created in the image of God…” as said in Genesis 1.  God clearly does NOT separate any of humankind into one better or greater than the other.  There are several different ethnicities, but only one race; humanity.  The only distinction that God makes is between the man and the woman; all else is the same regardless of what color is within the first few layers of skin cells.  Why can we not remember that?

If we cannot follow the example of Jesus, then can’t we emulate Pastor King?  Is that not a better and more effective way of bringing change to our country?  One thing anchors my heart in all of this, whether           COVID, murder hornets, or the present destruction supposedly objecting to the death of one man; God is still on His throne and has not abrogated His authority to anyone else.  Let those who are of Christ remember the warning to us in 2 Chronicles 7:14;

“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”

God is not speaking to unbelievers, but to His own.  We must remember this and step up, not in violence, but in a peaceful demonstration, calling all who want to revert to Jim Crow to repent and seek the only Source of Hope and Life, there is in this world.  Maybe things will change or perhaps not, but if we do not heed the call of Scripture, then remember what God caused to happen to the nation of Israel following the death of Solomon; first division (which I fear is now happening within America unless we repent) then utter destruction. 

Remember!

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