Special Forces veteran and now Iraq and Afghanistan war correspondent Michael Yon puts it better than I could.
Memorial Day is upon us, and for most Americans that means the first holiday weekend of a new summer. For most, it's time to dust off the barbecue pit or head to the nearest beach or hit the mall for the big sales.
For those who wear, or have worn, the uniform and those who love them, however, it means something different: It's a time to remember those who've fallen in defense of our country in the 234 years since the first American soldier died in a rebellion against a king.
During this time, some 43 million Americans have served under arms in our wars, 655,000 have died in battle and more than 1.4 million have been wounded in combat.
Our two ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have claimed the lives of 4,963 American troops, and 34,000 others have been wounded in combat.
For our remaining World War II veterans, the days dwindle down to a precious few. Some of their veterans associations held their last reunion this past year; too few are left to gather again. Fewer than 5 million are left of the 15 million who wore the uniform between 1941 and 1945, and they're disappearing from among us at the rate of 30,000 each day.
However you celebrate Memorial Day this year however happy or solemn the occasion spare a thought and a moment of silence in memory of all those who purchased your freedom with their lives, and of all those who defend it still.