Remembering those who gave ultimate sacrifice


The American flags on the veterans’ graves remain year-round and are refreshed each month by Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1095. Other cemeteries throughout Delaware County are providing the same service via township trustees and volunteers. I would encourage everyone to get involved. Flags are provided by the Delaware County Veterans Services Office. We greatly appreciate their support in this and other endeavors.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is not about parades, sales, cookouts, the start of summer, or honoring veterans; though these things are not necessarily bad. It is a day that is set aside to remember and honor those that never became veterans because they died in service to our country.

We pay our respects and honor those that were killed while serving our country. It is not about veterans or active service; they have Veterans Day, Armed Forces Day, and others for that.

I believe that Winston Churchill summed it up very well; “Never have so many owed so much to so few.”

No one signs up to die for their country, but we all know that is a distinct possibility when we do sign up to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States to preserve our rights, freedoms, and the American way of life.

As for veterans that are buried in Delaware County, there are roughly 10,800. Veterans buried in the county go all the way back to the Revolutionary War. Oak Grove Cemetery along with St. Mary Cemetery has roughly 3,000.

The monuments on the Historic Delaware County Courthouse lawn list those from Delaware County that have been killed during wartime. The individual monuments cover the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan; each monument list Delaware County residents that were killed in action. I would encourage you to visit and read the names on them, once they are placed back on the renovated lawn.

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans – the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) – established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Major General John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

Local springtime tributes to the Civil War dead already had been held in various places prior to 1868. One of the first occurred in Columbus, Mississippi, April 25, 1866, when a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. Nearby were the graves of Union soldiers, neglected because they were the enemy. Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the women placed some of their flowers on those graves as well.

The Civil War was America’s bloodiest conflict; 618,222 men died in the Civil War, 360,222 from the North and 258,000 from the South — by far the greatest toll of any war in American history. The unprecedented violence of battles such as Shiloh, Antietam, Stones River, and Gettysburg shocked citizens and international observers alike. Nearly as many men died in captivity during the Civil War as were killed in the whole of the Vietnam War. Hundreds of thousands died of disease.

By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities.

It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May.

Depending on the resources you use, it varies as to the number of conflicts we have been involved in since the inception of our country. According to the Veterans Administration, there have been a total of 13. Other sources list up to 35, 20 of those in the last 100 years. The VA does not list any conflicts that have less than 500 deaths or were generally not public knowledge.

Over 600,000 military service people have died in battle while serving in the last 100 years. The top four conflict deaths of the last 100 years are WWII – 405,000-plus (the vast majority of which are buried on foreign ground or at the bottom of the ocean somewhere), WWI – 116,000-plus, Vietnam – 58,000-plus, Korea 36,000-plus, and Iraq and Afghanistan 7,000-plus. These are just the ones that we are aware of that were killed directly in combat.

There are MIAs, those that died a few weeks or months after being wounded in battle, and of course those that never got acknowledged.

There are 25 major American military cemeteries outside the United States, mostly in Europe; 23 of those are strictly WWI and WWII. There are two or three American military cemeteries in Europe, mostly France, that have more American service men and women buried in each of them than Arlington National Cemetery.

“Find the cost of freedom buried in the ground.”

By Harold B. Wolford

Veterans Corner

Harold B. Wolford is president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1095. He served in the United States Army from 1970 to 1973. Wolford can be reached via email at [email protected].

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