Our View: A very different war
On this Veterans Day, 70 years after the end of World War II, the stories of valiant service and sacrifice still resonate across the decades. In today's Tidings, Ashland writer and researcher Lynne Hasselman completes her series of articles exploring the stories of Ashland residents who lost their lives in the conflict.
We remember all veterans today, and every Veterans Day, but Hasselman's series illuminates the difference between World War II and all the wars that came after it: the sheer scope of the country's involvement. Every American household either had a member serving in uniform or knew someone who did.
Ashland's population was barely more than 4,700 at the time, but 1,000 to 1,200 served during the war. At least 60 did not come home.
More than 16 million Americans served in World War II in the four years from 1941 and 1945, 73 percent of them overseas. Contrast that experience to today's conflicts. Since the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan in 2001 and in Iraq in 2003, 2.5 million Americans have served in two wars, many of them multiple tours of duty. And the U.S. population, at 320 million, is more than twice what it was in 1945 (140 million.)
More than 6,800 Americans died in Iraq and Afghanistan. In World War II, the total was more than 671,000.
Americans have largely been insulated from those fighting in this century's wars. We would do well to remember those who bear the scars of that service.