Monday, May 30, 2016

Why Do We Celebrate Memorial Day?

I was at work the other day, when someone asked which holiday was coming up, Memorial Day or Veterans Day? I replied that it was Memorial Day and my co-worker shrugged and responded "What's the difference?" Now, I wish I could say I had never heard that before, but the truth is, many people do not know the difference between the two. Do you?

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, Memorial Day and Veterans Day have very different purposes. Sure they both honor those who have served our country, but Memorial Day is set aside to honor the brave souls who died in battle, or who died later as a direct result of injuries sustained during that battle. Veterans Day, on the other hand, is designed to honor all veterans living or dead, whether they served in battle or during peacetime, and to acknowledge the sacrifices each made for our country.

Both days are important to our country, but when you consider how many American lives have been lost in major wars, it is astounding. According to Wikipedia, the total number of Americans who have died during battle tops out over 1.43 million.

               Image from

These brave souls are our ancestors. They fought for what they believed in and paid the highest price - their lives. They left behind wives, children, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, and siblings who mourned them. Their deaths left gaping holes in our lives and in our communities.

This Memorial Day I am honoring all veterans who died for our country, but one in particular. He was my second cousin once removed and he died when I was six years old.

His name was John Norman WICKLIFFE. He was born 28 Jul 1940 to Hugh Edward WICKLIFFE and Mable Louise ADAMS. He was from Benton, Saline county, Arkansas. He enlisted in the Army in 1958 and served in the 5 SF Group (Company B, Det A-245) as a radio operator. His rank was Sergeant First Class. He was killed during the siege of Dak Seang, Kon Tum Province, South Vietnam, on 03 Aug 1967, in an ambush by NVA forces. His body was recovered the following day from the field by ARVN 8th Airborne Battalion Troops.  He left behind a wife and child. Thank you cousin for your service to our country. You will not be forgotten!

Photo submitted by Janna Hoehn to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund website.

Who will you be honoring this Memorial Day?