Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day: so many wars, so many gone to be soldiers

Last fall during the bookapalooza, I found myself whiling away an afternoon in a tiny rural Wisconsin cemetery. The people of this place remember their menfolk by their wars, even if they died years after serving.

The dates of these two suggest their war was the Rebellion, the Civil War. Wisconsin raised 91,000 soldiers for the Union Army, one in two eligible voters (all male in those days.) Thirteen percent died in the war.

In the World War I era, the troops of the Wisconsin National Guard first served along the Mexican border, chasing the revolutionary Pancho Villa in 1916. A total of about 120,000 state residents, including some women among the nurses, served in the European war after U.S. entry in 1917.

There are not so many World War II vets buried here. Perhaps they made their subsequent lives elsewhere -- or are even still alive. The Wisconsin Veterans Museum reports:

°332,200 Wisconsinites served in WWII: 9,300 women and 322,900 men.

°8,149 Wisconsinites died while in the Armed Forces, 48 of them at Pearl Harbor.

°13,600 Wisconsinites were wounded.

°15 Wisconsin men were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for their actions during WWII.

I saw only one grave of a veteran of Vietnam.

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