Its annual decoration of Civil War graves grew in communities across the country, eventually evolving to commemorate all American conflicts following the grisly toll taken in World War I.
This year’s holiday comes at a particularly anxious moment for military personnel and Americans abroad, with tensions ratcheting up in Iran and North Korea, ever the powder keg.
In recent days, U.S. leaders dispatched thousands of additional troops to the Middle East, responding to what they characterized as evidence of Iranian involvement in planned attacks on Americans. President Donald Trump, as the Associated Press reported Saturday, alternated between “tough talk” and caution in describing the tensions, even as he dispatched additional troops to the region and negotiated a massive arms sale to Iran’s greatest rival, Saudi Arabia.
“Right now, I don’t think Iran wants to fight and I certainly don’t think they want to fight with us,” he told reporters Friday.
Reporters and top Democrats are pressing for proof of Iranian plots to attack Americans.
Meanwhile, former military leaders and members of armed services committees on Capitol Hill expressed concern about the president’s downplaying of the North Korean threat after recent missile tests.
Both conflicts, were they to materialize, have the potential to result in enormous casualties. And while some have suggested a war with Iran would be comparable to the conflict in Iraq, experts say it has the potential to be far worse.
Here are some numbers to keep in mind, and not simply for today, as we mourn the loss of America’s war dead:
1,500 – Number of additional soldiers dispatched to the Middle East in recent days, a reaction to what Trump administration officials described as a building threat to Iran
70,000 – Number of American troops currently in the Middle East
$8 billion – Total arms sold in recent days by Americans to Iran’s arch-rival, Saudi Arabia, despite lingering concerns of human rights violations in the Middle Eastern country
120,000 – Number of troops Trump administration officials are reportedly considering for deployment to Iran if Iran were to attack the U.S. or relaunch its missile program
773,000 – Estimated number of Iranian troops, both active duty and reserve personnel, about 320,000 more than the number of troops Americans faced in their war with Iraq.
2 million – Estimated number of Koreans that would be killed in the event of a second war in Korea
50,000+ – Estimated number of American dead in the event of a second war in Korea
25,000 – Estimated dead in the American Revolutionary War
655,000 – Approximated number of dead Union and Confederate soldiers in the Civil War
116,516 – U.S. dead in World War I
405,399 – U.S. dead in World War II
36,516 – U.S. dead in the Korean War
58,209 – U.S. dead in the Vietnam War
2,216 – U.S. dead in the war in Afghanistan
4,497 – U.S. dead in the war in Iraq
Sources: The Associated Press, BBC, The National Interest, The Washington Post