Americans love peace and freedom, but we have had to fight many wars over many years to gain and maintain our freedom.
It was on April 19, 1775, that "shots heard 'round the world" were fired at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts, beginning our American Revolution.
Then, on July 4, 1776, Americans issued our Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. But we still had to win it. And we have had to face many other challenges to keep our freedom.
Today, on Nov. 11, we honor all of our military veterans. This date was originally called Armistice Day, noting American and Allied victory ending World War I -- on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. More recently, we have called it Veterans Day, to include all Americans who have served in our military forces.
The American Revolutionary War for our independence from Great Britain raged from 1775 to 1783. Though not all the numbers are certain, it involved about 217,000 American soldiers, with 4,435 of them giving their lives in combat, as 6,188 others were wounded.
The War of 1812, lasting through 1815, involved 286,730 U.S. soldiers, with 2,260 dying in battle and 4,505 others wounded.
Indian wars stretching across the 19th century reportedly involved about 106,000 soldiers, with about a thousand dying.
The Mexican-American War, from 1846 to 1848, engaged 78,718 U.S. soldiers, with 1,733 killed in battle and 4,153 more wounded.
The War Between the States, from 1861 to 1865, involved more than 2.2 million men in Union forces, with 140,414 battle deaths, 224,097 dying from varied other causes, and 281,881 reportedly being wounded.
About 1.05 million Confederate soldiers served, with 74,524 of them reported to have died in battle and 59,297 more dying from other causes -- plus an estimated 26,000 to 31,000 Confederate soldiers who died in Union prisons.
The Spanish-American War, in 1898, involved about 300,000 men in U.S. service, with more than 300 dying in battle, some 2,000 from other causes, and hundreds more wounded.
World War I, from 1917 to 1918, involved 4,734,991 American soldiers, 53,402 dying in battle, plus 63,114 dying from other causes (many from influenza), with 204,002 being wounded but surviving.
Then came our costliest conflict -- World War II, from 1941 through 1945. American service members reportedly numbered 16,112,566, with 291,557 dying in battle, with 113,842 other deaths, and 671,846 being wounded but surviving.
The Korean War, 1950 to 1953, involved 5,720,000 service members. There were 33,741 battle deaths, 2,833 other deaths in the war theater, and 17,672 deaths in military service outside the theater. About 103,000 more were wounded. Millions of Korean War veterans still survive.
The prolonged Vietnam War, from 1964 to 1975, had 8,744,000 Americans in service, 3,403,000 in the war theater, with 47,424 battle deaths, 10,785 others dying in the theater, plus 32,000 other deaths. An additional 153,303 suffered wounds. More than 7.2 million Vietnam veterans are still living!
The Persian Gulf War, 1990 to 1991, involved 2,225,000 men and women in service, 665,476 in the war theater, with 147 deaths in battle, nearly 2,000 dying of other causes, and 467 surviving their wounds.
In our war in Afghanistan since 2001, there have been more than 1,075 combat deaths, with nearly 300 other deaths and thousands more wounded -- with casualties still mounting.
In the Iraq war since 2003, there have been nearly 3,500 combat deaths, more than 900 other deaths and thousands more wounded.
A total of nearly 42 million men and women have served in our armed forces during all of our wars, with more than 650,000 dying in battle, more than 500,000 dying in service from other causes, and more than 1.4 million being wounded. There are nearly 17,500,000 living war veterans today.
We honor them all -- with appreciation that always will be inadequate.