Memorial Day: the cost of war

improving coping and problem-solving skills

Perusing a Wikipedia page, I was struck by the cost of war. “Note: ‘Deaths – other’ includes all non-combat deaths, including those from bombing, massacres, disease, suicide, and murder.”

Why I was looking at them is simple. Some people – OK, many people – conflate Memorial Day Day and Veterans Day.

Memorial Day, which is observed on the last Monday of May, commemorates the men and women who died while in the military service.  In observance of the holiday, many people visit cemeteries and memorials, and volunteers often place American flags on each grave site at national cemeteries.  A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time.”

What? Nothing about the “unofficial start of summer”?

Veterans Day was formerly known as Armistice Day. November 11th is a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

In all major American wars through World War I, more people died from “other” than from combat.  An article in notes: “The chances of dying in combat in the Revolutionary War were roughly 1.8%. But “disease was a much deadlier enemy than the British troops…  you still had a 4.5% chance of dying from dysentery, malaria, or smallpox.” And “a Great War-era soldier was almost as likely to perish due to trench foot or Spanish Flu as to a German bullet.”

Not painless

I wonder how many of these fighters died from suicide? An article in the Military Suicide Research Consortium notes: “During the final three years of World War II, the Army’s annual suicide rate didn’t budge above 10 soldiers per 100,000, and during the Korean War in the early 1950s, that annual pace remained at about 11 soldiers per 100,000, according to a study published in 1985 by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research…

“The Army’s suicide rate in 2001 was less than half that for all American males (18.2 per 100,000). Since then, the pace of self-harm among active Army troops has more than doubled…”

A 2021 paper from the Watson Institute of Brown University cites these startling statistics.

“Suicide rates among active military personnel and veterans of the post-9/11 wars are reaching new peaks…  The study finds that at least four times as many active duty personnel and war veterans of post-9/11 conflicts have died of suicide than in combat, as an estimated 30,177 have died by suicide as compared with the 7,057 killed in post-9/11 war operations.” A 2022 report suggests nearly 17 vets commit suicide each day.


A 2021 Fact Sheet from the White House outlines Five Priorities for Reducing Military and Veteran Suicide. One piece notes that “reducing the likelihood that an individual will experience a suicidal crisis requires addressing the factors—such as increased financial strain, lack of housing, food insecurity, unemployment, and legal issues—that may contribute to or increase the risk for suicide. Conversely, improving coping and problem-solving skills and supporting connectedness are protective factors that can decrease risk.”

Sending people off to war means doing all one can to prevent them from dying prematurely on the battlefield or when they get home.

I found a 2019 video memorial to U.S. soldiers killed in the War on Terror. It’s called The Cost Of War.

See also: Heroes, Monsters, and Boys at Omaha Beach on Medium

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