I first would like to thank every man and woman who has either served, is serving or will serve in this great nation’s armed forces to help protect a freedom we often take for granted.

After attending Monday’s Memorial Day Ceremony at Smith Mountain Cemetery, I can truly say I have gained an even deeper appreciation for those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom. I was especially moved by the speakers who graced those in attendance with reminders of why we must never forget those who have fought for us.

One of the things that struck me the most was hearing how many lives have been lost in the brief history of the United States during the course of its wars – over 1.1 million lives.

That number just seems to boggle the mind. However, one number jumped out at me when I researched the numbers. And no, it wasn’t the over 400,000 lives lost in World War II. It was the 620,000 lives lost in our own Civil War.

Not only did I discover that the number represented the largest number of lives lost in any war the United States has been involved in, but it also nearly matches the amount of lives lost in all other US wars put together.

That is beyond mind-boggling. It means that we lost more lives fighting with each other than we did any other war against any other nation, or nations for that matter.

In a time where the country continues to grow more politically divided, this should be a stern warning to all that the war within our selves and the war within this nation is too costly a path to consider.

Now, more than ever, we must come to a place where we can put our differences aside and extend an olive branch to our very own neighbors.

Like two of the speakers said on Monday morning, let us pray for peace on earth and in this great nation we are so blessed to call our own.

Rick Curiel is editor of the Dinuba Sentinel.

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