Memorial Day 2022

7500 boots that fill a football field in Hedrick Stadium on Fort Bragg.  7500 Service Members who “have died during the 9/11 terrorist attacks or as a result of conflicts or personal battles that followed”.  7500 families forever changed.  The number is 7500 according to the event organizing committee, though I was unable to find information on how that number was reached.

Each donated boot has a tag with a photo of a service member, branch of service, name, unit, and date of death.

The number I could, however, find information on is 37,234.

According to the Dept. of Defense’s latest casualty status report, total military deaths (killed in action and non-hostile) from post-9/11 operations (Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, New Dawn, Inherent Resolve, and Freedom’s Sentinel) is 7057.  A paper published in June 2021, and that was subsequently widely reported on, estimates that 30,177 active-duty personnel and veterans of the post 9/11 wars have died by suicide.  That means 4 times as many post-9/11 service members and veterans have died from suicide as have from combat operations.

Let that sink in a minute. 

Four times as many service members and veterans have taken their own lives as have died during combat operations.

And that doesn’t even account for those who have died from medical conditions related to military service.  Did you know that there are lists of conditions that are so common in specific groups of veterans that when any of these dozen or more conditions on the list are exhibited by a veteran in one of these groups, the Veterans Administration presumes that these disabilities are caused by military service?  Things like non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in Vietnam Veterans, Fibromyalgia in Gulf War Veterans, and numerous respiratory cancers in veterans of Southwest Asia theater of operations.  Lives lost to these medical conditions are not captured in any of these numbers.       

The magnitude of so many boots with names of deceased service members is staggering.
Sun setting over memorial boot display at Fort Bragg, NC

So, as you enjoy your extended weekend and time with family and friends, please honor the day’s purpose:  a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America.  It doesn’t matter if their lives were ended by enemy hand or their own, by an accident downrange, or by a medical condition caused by their service.  They died in service to the United States of America, and that’s all that matters.

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