MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho --
Commemorating sacrifices incomprehensible to many, red-blooded Americans in all corners of the world make their way to local cemeteries, memorials and hollowed grounds the final Monday of each May.
Though U.S. history is short when compared to that of our European and Asian allies, American sacrifices are grand and martyrs are many.
That's the way it's always been for American patriots.
Muskets roared and black powder darkened the skies over Lexington and Concord, Mass., in 1775, as patriots took to the battlefield, paving the way for so many others to follow.
Beneath the unassuming grounds of Old Salem, Mass., lie the remains of nearly 1,000 of those men who fought in America's revolution ... you gave us our independence, we remember you this Memorial Day.
The cannons boomed once more in 1812, when American patriots met the armies of Great Britain, this time officially on U.S. soil.
On the many old headstones at Cheektowaga Historic Cemetery in Williamsville, N.Y., the names of those who fought in that war are listed ... we're thankful for your sacrifices this Memorial Day.
Not yet a century old, the sons of America would experience the bitter taste of battle again in 1846, this time to expand their nation's border westward.
The U.S. cavalry, under the command of Gen. Stephen W. Kearny, led a grueling charge across New Mexico and Arizona to wage battle with Mexican forces near San Diego.
Meanwhile, the Pacific Fleet, under the command of John D. Sloat, sailed to southern Mexico, to occupy Monterrey.
Thirteen-thousand American sons paid their lives for U.S. victory in the Mexican-American War ... we're humbled by you this Memorial Day.
With the south winds blowing hard toward a confederacy, America's resolve was tested in combat again, this time brother against brother, to prevent half the nation from seceding.
When the Confederate Soldiers of Gen. Robert E. Lee met Gen. George Meade's Union Army at Ghettysburg, Penn., 46,000 American sons breathed their last lungful of life.
Many small cemeteries litter the Georgian countryside, each home to hundreds or thousands of American sons - some wore Confederate gray and others Union blue, yet all died heroes in their own lands.
The soils of the eastern U.S. were watered with more than 625,000 dead American's during the four-year war, and from Mississippi to Massachusetts, Old Glory waves proudly over all her fallen children ... we're thankful to be united and honor your sacrifices this Memorial Day.
Until 1900, America's wars were mostly fought on the homeland, gaining independence, expanding or defending the nation against foreign forces.
Then in 1898, America headed south to assist Cuba in their revolution against Spain. Concurrently, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps set sail for the Philippines, to challenge Spain's Pacific possessions.
America's impressive naval fleet, commanded by Commodore George Dewey, engaged the Spanish Armada at the Battle of Manila Bay.
Thirteen of Dewey's Sailors perished on that briny foam, but not a single U.S. ship was sunk. The Spanish Armada lost 8 ships and 77 of their men were killed.
In total, nearly 2,500 Americans were killed during the Spanish-American War ... we honor you American Sailors and Marines, may the glorious wind of your grateful nation ever be at your sails.
In Flanders Fields during World War I, American Soldiers were gunned down in masses. Dedicated to liberating Belgium and freeing Europe of the tyranny that took hold of the land, the heroes charged on.
When German forces kept advancing and finally punched a hole in the French lines in 1918, it was a regiment of Marines who halted the German advance at the Battle of Belleau Wood. Holding 12 miles of the battlefield's front lines, the Marines held off the German forces and plugged the gap in the French front line in one night.
More than 116,000 Americans gave their lives defending Europe during World War I ... your legacy will be with us forever, we remember you this Memorial Day.
When, for a second time, the Axis forces threatened European sovereignty during World War II, America yet again returned to shed their sons' blood in the defense of their European allies.
This time skirmishes were increasingly waged on a new battlefield - in the skies above.
The German Air Force waged an air campaign against the United Kingdom in 1940 in effort to gain air superiority over the Royal Air Force. The Battle of Britain was the first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces, but the RAF and U.S. Army Air Force defeated Adolf Hitler's Luftwaffe, which was a major turning point in the European theater of World War II.
After the Battle of Britain, U.S. and Royal Air Forces had air superiority, and carried out extensive bombing campaigns against Germany.
As the major conflicts were winding down in Europe, it seemed the Japanese forces would not be defeated in Asia. Japan had conquered nearly all of Asia and when they attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, they invited a major U.S. Naval and Marine Corps campaign against them.
The Army and Army Air Force also fought against Japan.
The largest amphibious assault in the Pacific during World War II was the Battle of Okinawa, which lasted 82 days, and cost 65,000 U.S. and coalition lives.
Before treaties were signed with all the Axis forces, America had lost more than 405,000 sons and daughters in the war. Nearly 10,000 of those are buried or honored at Madingley American Cemetery in Cambridge, England ... you served honorably and will always be considered 'America's Greatest Generation,' we remember you this Memorial Day.
As the fires of World War II began to extinguish, struggles for power erupted around the globe. America's children were once again summoned to drums of war, this time on the Korean Peninsula in 1950.
The Korean War was brutal, and U.S. forces were tested at Chosin Reservoir and on the many cruel battles of the war. By 1953, more than 36,000 Americans gave their lives in Korea and 138,000 South Koreans were killed. However, the enemy lost roughly 375,000 Soldiers.
The Korean War redefined how America fought wars, and U.S. warfighters learned much from the sacrifices paid on the Korean Peninsula ... we treasure your sacrifices and honor you this Memorial Day.
Less than a decade after the cease-fire in Korea, American Soldiers were fighting in Asia again, this time to quell the spread of communism and to defend the people of the Republic of Vietnam against North Vietnamese forces.
More than 425,000 Republic of Vietnam, American and Korean Service members died in Vietnam between 1960 and 1975. Nearly 1.2 million North Vietnamese were killed.
A frequently visited wall was erected at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The Service members who died defending the Republic of Vietnam, and those missing in action are honored there ... we will never forget you, and revere you this Memorial Day.
Americans fought in Grenada, Cuba, Libya, Panama and the Persian Gulf ... you are the generation who inspired today's war fighters; we honor and remember you this Memorial Day.
When Iraq refused to comply with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441, American forces invaded and occupied Iraq. From 2003 until 2011, U.S. Service members waged battle against insurgent forces in Iraq. Unlike the wars before, the enemy wore no uniform and operated from the shadows.
Make-shift bombs and improvised explosive devices became the weapon of choice for the insurgents. Despite an unseen enemy and terrorist tactics, America's children fought with honor during Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn. Nearly 4,500 Americans paid the ultimate sacrifice in the sands of Iraq ... we remember you each and every day, and will think of you this Memorial Day.
After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in Washington, D.C., New York City and Pennsylvania, America launched Operation Enduring Freedom and sent forces to Afghanistan to extinguish terrorism there.
For nearly 12 years, U.S. and allied forces have been combating Taliban and insurgents in Afghanistan. On July 13, 2008, about 200 insurgents attacked NATO troops near the village of Wanat, Nuristan Province. The heavily outnumbering insurgent force pummeled the base's perimeter, killing nine U.S. Soldiers and wounding 27.
Through valor and skill, the coalition forces defended themselves against an outnumbering and determined enemy. Many major battles have been fought since Wanat and more may follow.
About 2,000 American Soldiers have been killed so far in Afghanistan ... we remember each and every one of you this Memorial Day. You have paid the ultimate sacrifice your beloved nation, and many of your brothers and sisters continue to serve.
Since the American Revolution, it's been the honor, courage and valor of U.S. forces keeping the nation safe at home and abroad.
This is the way it will always be for American patriots.
The embedded photos depict Airmen and civilians during 366th Fighter Wing-sponsored or supported events
on- and off-base in the Mountain Home area. (U.S. Air Force photos by Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace)