The least we can do


Depending on the source consulted, there are currently between 6 and 7.4 percent of all Americans who have ever served or now serve in the Armed Forces of the United States. That means that at high as 94% of Americans now alive have never had to do anything to serve their country in the military.

And, presently, less than 1% of the American population currently serves in the Army, Marines, Navy Air Force, Coast Guard or Space Force. That translates to over 99% of the population receiving the benefits of freedom and protection from foreign powers without any risk to themselves.

The cost in blood has been high. Since 1775 over 1,185,596 military personnel have been killed in America’s wars, Even more, 1,498,240+ were wounded and/or maimed for life. Even today, there are an additional 40,031+ missing and presumed dead. All with families who never knew what happened to them.

Today, our nation is protected by less than 1% of the population and most of these are young men and women. In fact, the vast majority of those killed, wounded, maimed, and missing were young men and women. People with mothers and dads. Many with spouses, grandparents, siblings, and children. The statement is true that says of these: “We gave up all of our tomorrows that you might have today.”

Memorial Day isn’t about cookouts, fishing, trips to the lake or beach, sports, or even a simple walk in the forest. Memorial Day is not about those on active duty, military veterans, the flag or any such thing.

It is about a nation reflecting on the bitter pain and sacrifice of those who gave “their last full measure of devotion,” as Abraham Lincoln said following the Battle of Gettysburg, PA.

Most military types don’t want Americans to give up their cookouts, fishing, trips to the lake or beach, sports, or even a simple walk in the forest. What they do want, I believe, is for the 94% of Americans who never served a day on active duty or in the reserves, and who never had to put their lives on the line, to remember those who died so all the liberties we enjoy would be secure. It is the least — and I mean the very least — we can do.

[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King ( Worship services are on Sundays at 10:00 a.m. and on livestream at He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South ( He may be contacted at has been an opinion columnist for The Citizen for over 27 years.]