To many Americans, Memorial Day represents the unofficial start of summer – a time for barbecues; a family day at the beach, weather permitting; or browsing the sales at stores. To many others, though, the holiday’s original meaning holds true, as they take time to remember the military men and women who gave their lives for the country.
“They are heroes, each and every one,” President Obama said in his weekly address on Saturday. “They gave America the most precious thing they had – ‘the last full measure of devotion.’ And because they did, we are who we are today – a free and prosperous nation, the greatest in the world.”
As the infographic below details, the holiday – called Decoration Day at first – was officially proclaimed in 1868 to honor service-members who died in the Civil War. After World War I, the day was turned into a remembrance for those who died in all our wars – including more than 1 million men and women since the Civil War. Those men and women are far more than a collection of statistics, but the stats below from the Census Bureau and the Department of Defense provide an overview of America’s fallen veterans.