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A Tribute to our American Military

*This article originally appeared on Rachael M Colby’s website TattooItOnYourHeart.com and on her Cape Cod Times blog by the same name and reprinted with permission.

“I joined the military because I’m answering my calling,” said the first young United States Army serviceman I interviewed.

“I am concerned that we are divided. Realize what we as a nation are about: United—one nation. Represent your flag. We need understanding, to accept and respect each other. Out of many one people.

“Have your culture; have your heritage. Be proud of your heritage—but we are all Americans. E Pluribus Unum; out of many, one. We are Americans first,” U.S. Army serviceman twice deployed to Afghanistan.

What a privilege to interview some of our active duty and retired military members and share their words dispersed throughout this article.

I wonder how many know that congress designated May as Military Appreciation Month in 1999. Only two of the fifty people I asked knew the third Saturday of May is designated as Armed Forces Day. However, someone informed me that May fourth was Star Wars Day. Can we please fix this?

“On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy and Air Force Days. The single-day celebration stemmed from the unification of the Armed Forces under one department…The Marine Corps League declined to drop support for Marine Corps Day but supports Armed Forces Day, too.”U. S. Department of Defense.

President Harry S. Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service to our country. The Presidential Proclamation of Armed Forces Day was made on Feb 27th 1950 and first celebrated on May 20th, 1950. It is now observed on the 3rd Saturday in May.

LINK: Armed Forces Medley: National Memorial Day Concert.

Memorial Day

In 1866, following the Civil War, a women’s memorial association in Columbus, Mississippi, decorated the graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers with flowers. This benevolent gesture inspired the poem “The Blue and the Grey,” by Francis Miles Finch.

On May 15th, 1868, Union hero Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, who was also the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, issued General Order Number 11, designating May 30 as a day of memorial, originally known as Decoration Day, “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.

With President Ulysses Grant presiding, General James A. Garfield (who later became 20th President of the United States in 1881) delivered the speech at the first national Memorial Day observance which took place on May 30th 1868, with a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, the ground of which was formerly the estate of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and his wife.

Memorial Day was later expanded to honor all deceased American military men and women who gave their lives defending our nation in battle. In 1971, federal law moved the observance of Memorial Day to the last Monday in May.

Today Memorial Day is observed at Arlington National Cemetery by decorating each grave with an American flag and placing a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In other military cemeteries, flags are placed on the graves of all veterans and even on their spouse’s graves on Memorial Day.

LINK: TSgt Mike Brest performs Taps in Arlington National Cemetery.

General James A. Garfield’s Speech, known as “His finest hour,” given at the first national Memorial Day:

“I am oppressed with a sense of the impropriety of uttering words on this occasion. If silence is ever golden, it must be here beside the graves of fifteen thousand men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem, the music of which can never be sung. With words we make promises, plight faith, praise virtue…” Click to continue.

LINK: The History of Taps, told by John Wayne

Why did you enlist in the U.S. military?

U.S. Army servicemen: “I thought, why not be the first to serve in my family?”

“It’s stable. Good pay.” (Served in Kuwait twice)

“I was in a rut and in need of a way out. I felt the military was a good way out —[it offered] schooling, job.

Retired, U.S. Air Force serviceman of 20 years: “I joined because I wanted to do something better with myself.”

U.S Air force serviceman: “After college I couldn’t find a job. My Father was an Army reservist and encouraged me. My Grandfather was a World War II Navy veteran.”

Belgium, WWII

He was only 19 as he and his fellow soldiers of the 104th Infantry Division “Timberwolves” of the United States Army fought to the north of where the Battle of the Bulge waged. The cold, wet conditions in December 1944 made it all the more miserable and caused David and many of the men to suffer from trench foot.

The Timberwolves pressed toward the Nazi army as shots rang out. Suddenly, in the exchange of fire a bullet found its target and an American soldier fell and lay wounded in the space between them and the enemy.

A volley of enemy ammunition rained down as David ran across the open field and carried his fellow soldier back toward their unit. Suddenly, a bullet ripped through David’s leg and he stumbled, regained his footing, and kept going.

David lay recovering from his wound in the hospital in Belgium, grateful to be alive and to have saved the soldier’s life. But he longed for home. His thoughts drifted to his younger sister, Jean, and the sweet sound of her singing as she played Christmas carols on the family piano in the parlor. He picked up his pen and began to draw.

What is the hardest thing for you about serving in the military?

“The sacrifice of being away from my family is the hardest. The births, funerals, birthdays I miss. When my niece asked why I wasn’t at her birthday…when you come home, and kids don’t know you. It’s hard not being there for my family, but those people I’m not there for- are the reason why I’m gone. I’m doing this for them, to take care of them. So, by being away, I am there for them.”

What bothers you?

“The PC. Why is there any such thing as politically correct?”

“When I ask for the military discount and they ask for my husband’s ID. I’m the service person.”

“Recognize women in the military. People ask about us being harassed in the military. I get harassed by those not in the military.”

“Staying up all night.”

“They, [American civilians], think Otis Air Force Base is closed. They don’t know there is still a war [on terror.]”

“I have lost two friends in combat.”

“Most American citizens aren’t aware servicemen died today in combat. Do they know their names?”

LINK to video of: The Star Spangled Banner (with lyrics) Performed by Sandi Patti with the original lyrics written by Francis Scott Key in 1814 and added verse composed by Claire Cloninger for the Statue of Liberty Centennial Celebration in 1986.

The Connection Between Poppies and the Military

The poem, In Flanders Fields, written by Canadian officer and surgeon John McCrae in 1915 during World War I, is responsible for the red poppy’s rise of popularity and subsequent adoption as a symbol of remembrance. By 1917, In Flanders Fields was shared throughout the English-speaking world and used to bring attention to the war effort, recruit American soldiers, and help raise money for the troops. It became one of history’s most famous wartime poems.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders field

Do you have concerns about our military?

U.S. Army serviceman: “No concerns. Everything is a cycle. What goes up will come down and what is down will come up.”

“Drill instructors aren’t tough enough today on recruits.”

“I’m concerned the military has gotten a little soft.”

“The definition of hazing has gone too far.”

“Now there is more paperwork. The military used to be more physical. You can’t engage the enemy with paper.”

U.S Air Force serviceman: “We need to toughen up the military.”

“We hope they don’t shut down more bases. This is how we support our families. This is our job. This is who we are. This is what we do”

“It is what it is. I don’t get caught up in the possibilities, the threats. I knew what I was getting into when I signed up.”

Link to SONG: Toby Keith – American Soldier

Do you have concerns about our country?

U.S. Army servicemen: “The way kids are being brought up. They don’t respect authority, and only want to play games. I think they should all serve two years in the military after high school.”

“Children today have no respect for authority.”

“People don’t have respect for authority, for each other, the military, our country.”

“It’s horrible how people treat our police officers.”

U.S. Air Force serviceman: “The situation in the nation between citizens, the youth, and police officers.”

U.S. Army servicemen: “We need more enlistments.”

“I’m concerned about the disconnect. Less than 1% of the population carry the burden of serving in our military.”

U.S. Air Force servicemen: “Be aware. Isis is everywhere. They are here. Living on your street.”

“Taking away gun rights doesn’t stop the bad guys. We need rules and regulations. But you need the right to defend yourself.”

There is no neutral ground. — We either advance good or enable evil. Doing nothing to stop evil when you are able, is aiding it.

War is a terrible thing, but sometimes it is necessary to wage war in order to win peace and secure freedom.

But the greatest danger is ever present here, war or not—the jeopardy of the man precariously perched on the edge of Hell as he waits to receive the life changing soul saving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I’d be remiss to not draw attention to the most epic battle ever waged—the one for our souls. Jesus fought to rescue us from the grip of Satan’s tyranny, so we don’t have to live captive to our sin, sorrow, past, or circumstance.

You wouldn’t step into battle unprepared. You shouldn’t step into eternity unprepared.

He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. (I John 5: 12 KJV)

Jesus said: “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” (John 8: 24 KJV)

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15: 13 KJV)

Jesus conquered death and Hell when He died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead so we can be born again, live free, and inherit eternal life. The prison door is open, but it’s up to us to walk out. You can do so by repenting and asking Jesus to forgive your sin, making Him Lord of your life, and accepting His gift of salvation and citizenship in Heaven.

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. (John 8:36 (KJV)

How can American civilians support our military?

U.S Serviceman: “Many Americans don’t understand our military. There is a gap between civilians and the military. People ask, most don’t know we [U.S. military forces], are still at war [in Iraq as part of the global war on terror.] In World War II there was a shared sacrifice with civilians. They participated in the war effort, to meet the needs. — We need civilians to educate themselves and participate.”

U.S. Air Force servicemen: “Remember, we are serving. Serving here is just as important as serving overseas. We have jobs, we volunteer in the community, train personnel to deploy, help with school, with storm support, the Red Cross, the Boston marathon, communications.”

“Military discounts, the thumbs up when you drive by makes us want to keep going and do what we do. Send care packages to our troops overseas.

U.S. Army servicemen: I never really thought about it. I get treated well. Show support—like at Troops in the Spotlight.

“We do our duty. Be supportive of the military. Some towns locally don’t show support for us. When they see us it’s like, ‘What are you doing here?’ — I’d like to see more parades and events—to be more a part of the culture.”

“Be an American. Show your support, like you’re doing now. Appreciate the benefits of the U.S. being your home. Take care of it. America needs to come first. Just be a civilian and do the best you can.”

“I could say more benefits, or that some things need to be fixed with the VA, but what we really need is unity. Have your differences. You’re an immigrant…Welcome—but you are an American now. Be one nation.”

“Those citizens who are doing their best- We appreciate it.”

The good soldier fights for freedom, righteousness and securing an ordinary peaceful life and opportunity for his people. Those fulfilling wholesome occupations are part of a soldier’s reward he can look forward to coming home to.

Let us do our duty in light of the trust we have received as citizens of our great nation, and if you are a Christian, as ambassadors for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are no insignificant tasks when we do what God calls us to. What are you called to? Do that.

To our American military personnel who served and currently serve in our United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. Thank you for your service.

God, help us to raise our families, appreciate our freedoms, care for our countrymen and nation, and live our lives in such a manner worthy of the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. May our hearts hold our American military and their families in grateful honor and prayer and may we demonstrate our love and support for them, not just on designated days, but always.

Link to: God Bless America (Patriotic Slideshow)


U.S. Department of Defense https://www.defense.gov/

Official website of the United States Army https://www.army.mil/

Official website of the United States Navy http://www.navy.mil/

Official website of the United States Marines http://www.marines.mil/

Official website of the United States Air Force http://www.af.mil/

Official website of the United States Coast Guard https://www.uscg.mil/

Link to learn about: America’s Wars: All the major wars that the United States has Fought

American Involvement in Wars from Colonial Times to the Present

In addition to the named wars and conflicts listed below, members of the American military (and some civilians) have played small but active roles in many other international conflicts.

Dates War in Which American Colonists or

United States Citizens Officially Participated

Major Combatants
July 4, 1675–

August 12, 1676

King Philip’s War New England Colonies vs. Wampanoag, Narragansett, and Nipmuck Indians
1689–1697 King William’s War The English Colonies vs. France
1702–1713 Queen Anne’s War (War of Spanish Succession) The English Colonies vs. France
1744–1748 King George’s War (War of Austrian Succession) The French Colonies vs. Great Britain
1756–1763 French and Indian War(Seven Years War) The French Colonies vs. Great Britain
1759–1761 Cherokee War English Colonists vs. Cherokee Indians
1775–1783 American Revolution English Colonists vs. Great Britain
1798–1800 Franco-American Naval War United States vs. France
1801–1805; 1815 Barbary Wars United States vs. Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli
1812–1815 War of 1812 United States vs. Great Britain
1813–1814 Creek War United States vs. Creek Indians
1836 War of Texas Independence Texas vs. Mexico
1846–1848 Mexican-American War United States vs. Mexico
1861–1865 U.S. Civil War Union vs. Confederacy
1898 Spanish-American War United States vs. Spain
1914–1918 World War I Triple Alliance: Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary vs. Triple Entente: Britain, France, and Russia. The United States joined on the side of the Triple Entente in 1917.
1939-1945 World War II Axis Powers: Germany, Italy, Japan vs. Major Allied Powers: United States, Great Britain, France, and Russia
1950–1953 Korean War United States (as part of the United Nations) and South Korea vs. North Korea and Communist China
1960–1975 Vietnam War United States and South Vietnam vs. North Vietnam
1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion United States vs. Cuba
1983 Grenada United States Intervention
1989 US Invasion of Panama United States vs. Panama
1990–1991 Persian Gulf War United States and Coalition Forces vs. Iraq
1995–1996 Intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina United States as part of NATO acted peacekeepers in former Yugoslavia
2001–present Invasion of Afghanistan United States and Coalition Forces vs. the Taliban regime in Afghanistan to fight terrorism.
2003–2011 Invasion of Iraq United States and Coalition Forces vs. Iraq
2004–present War in Northwest Pakistan United States vs. Pakistan, mainly drone attacks
2007–present Somalia and Northeastern Kenya United States and Coalition forces vs. al-Shabaab militants
2009–2016 Operation Ocean Shield (Indian Ocean) NATO allies vs. Somali pirates
2011 Intervention in Libya US and NATO allies vs. Libya
2011–2017 Lord’s Resistance Army US and allies against the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda
2014–2017 US-led Intervention in Iraq US and coalition forces against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
2014–present US-led intervention in Syria US and coalition forces against al-Qaeda, Isis, and Syria
2015–present Yemeni Civil War Saudi-led coalition and US, France and Kingdom against the Houthi rebels, Supreme Political Council in Yemen and allies
2015–present US intervention in Libya US and Libya against ISIS

Citation for above Chart:

Kelly, Martin. (2020, February 11). American Involvement in Wars from Colonial Times to the Present. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/american-involvement-wars-colonial-times-present-4059761

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