Grieving Memorial Day

Memorial Day honors men and women who lost their lives while serving in the U.S. military, as opposed to Veterans Day in November, which honors all who have served in the military—living or dead.

It makes sense to pause this coming Memorial Day, May 31, to reflect and grieve for the U.S. soldiers who have died in post-9/11 wars–even as we celebrate President Biden’s decision to pull U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021.

According to the Washington Post, as of April 14, 2021, some 2,500 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan. The president’s decision to bring them home, after 20 years of combat in response to an attack on U.S. soil that killed some 2,977 and injured approximately 6,000 people, does not necessarily affect the numbers of troops left worldwide, but it is a start. 

Post-9/11, roughly 2 million U.S. troops have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. A 2019 Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs Costs of War Project at Brown University estimated U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan and Pakistan at 2298 between October 2001 and October 2019; in Iraq, 4572 between March 2003 and October 2019. The Watson-Brown site also catalogued that in 2009, more U.S. soldiers died from suicide than were killed in combat in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

While honoring our military dead, we may also pause to consider the costs to everyone, everywhere war occurs. Between 313,000 and 336,000 civilians have been killed in U.S. wars worldwide since 2001–43,000 in Afghanistan, 24,000 in Pakistan, and 184,000-207,000 in Iraq.